Hospitality industry slide may just be beginning

It was with a degree of sadness that Minot Daily News reported this week that the Vegas Motel will be closing its rooms to travelers in the next weeks. While the popular Sevens Bar & Restaurant and handy Monte Carlo room will remain open, it is still unfortunate for the motel room component to be entering its final days.

However, it should not be a surprise. Nor should it be a surprise if other hotels, motels and restaurants close over the course of 2018. Vegas Motel owner Greg Pekovich told the Minot Daily News what most in the city could have guessed: the decision to close the motel rooms is because the supply of rooms has more than doubled in the city and the demand has declined dramatically due to the boom and bust in the oil field.

There’s no questioning Mr. Pekovich’s perspective. Quietly – sometimes not-so-quietly – this is something people in the industry, businesspeople and city leaders have known for some time. Minot has too many hospitality institutions to support the demand. Just recently, a Realtor asserted to Minot Daily News that most if not all hotels and motels in town are for sale – even if the current owners don’t want to acknowledge it, thus diminishing the opportunities to sell. But all one has to do is look at the room occupancy rates to know what we have cannot be sustained in the current economy, and there are precious few figures speaking up in belief that the economy is going to enter a boom phase anytime soon.

What we are seeing, and going to see, is the sad result of a boomtown slowing to a crawl. And it is sad. Every business we see close isn’t just an economic issue. Owners, managers, staff – they put their hearts into their businesses and anticipated much better outcomes here. It’s a terrible thing to witness people invest and then struggle as a result of factors mostly out of their control. No business is just a faceless commercial enterprise. It is people, whose lives and well-beings are linked to it; making every loss a hurtful, even devastating occasion for real people in our home town.

It’s hard to imagine 2018 not seeing more closings of hotels, motels, restaurants and retail. Those dependent on the higher population are most at risk, but those paying attention will also see empty venues at Dakota Square Mall and For Lease signs in strip malls.

Additional losses seem inevitable at this point and it’s understandable that some will be frustrated. All that can be done on an individual basis is to remember to support local venues and businesses. As a community, we might not be able to preserve the build-out of the past few years, but our individual support can certainly lessen the blow.

Maybe it is optimistic to believe better days are ahead. But that is a lot better than the alternative. Our community is not constructed of people who give up easily or throw up their hands in defeat. If so, this would be a wasteland.

Let’s support our local institutions and share confidence that brighter days for all of us are ahead.