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Blue Ridge Parkway business up, but threatened by government shutdown

Blue Ridge Parkway sections to close for maintenance (Image 1)
Blue Ridge Parkway sections to close for maintenance (Image 1) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

BEDFORD (WSLS 10) - Management at the Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant said business is booming.

Once the leaves start to turn, the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts thousands of visitors. All 63 rooms at the lodge are completely booked every weekend in October. And, as long as Washington, D.C. electoral leaders don't intervene, lodge management said they're looking at record high occupancy rates.

With congress expected to vote on a spending bill next week, the 2013 government shutdown is weighing on the minds of many businesses along the parkway. Political experts comment with the resignation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, it's unlikely the government will shut down, but it is possible.

"If they shut the government down it's going to hurt and it's going to knock our business probably 50 percent or better," said Peaks of Otter Winery Owner Danny Johnson.

A looming government shutdown isn't the way businesses along the Parkway want to start their busiest season. A shutdown and sequester two short years ago critically hit Blue Ridge Parkway businesses -- leaving financial shortcomings.

"2013 was a little rough," said Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant General Manager Andrew Mather. "And then, obviously with the government shut down in October which is the busiest month...that didn't help things at all."

But now, Mather said revenues are up almost over $400,000 compared to last year at this time. In fact, all businesses along the Parkway we spoke to said sales are up. Mather attributes the financial increase to a million dollar room renovation, a new restaurant food manager, and the economy.

"They've got a little bit more money, because there's less expense in gas, so more people traveling is one thing," said Johnson.

"I think it's for sure the economy and the travel on the Blue Ridge is up and the weather has been wonderful," said Mather. "We are very, very weather dependent."

A beneficial summer leads to a promising fall. Many visitors pass through the area to get a glimpse of the changing colors of the landscape. Mather comments they are booked at full occupancy every weekend in October.

However, both companies said even the threat of the government shut down can impact business. They've received plenty of calls and emails with the hint of potentially closing down; something they're hoping to avoid.