Hotel closure means loss of jobs, revenue in Blaine

BLAINE, Wash. -- The Upper Skagit Tribe will shutter the Semiahmoo Inn in December, and that means 200 employees will be out of work and the city of Blaine will take a huge financial hit.

It used to be difficult to even get a room at Semiahmoo.

"We had bookings from the east coast and the south and big conferences and that dried up in a heart beat in 2008," said tribal attorney Harry Chesnin.

People in Blaine knew things had slowed down at the inn, but nobody expected Wednesday's announcement.

"This is the largest employer in the area, the largest property tax payer, the largest sales tax payer," said Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic.

For Blaine, the closure means a massive budget hit. At least $1 million will be lost from sales tax revenues, utility bills and city coffers. Now the city will be forced to cut services and lay off police officers.

"I don't know if I felt like I'd jumped off a bridge, but I did feel like I'd been hit in the gut," Tomsic said.

Tomsic said it could mean all the city's tourist attractions -- the aerial shows, the jazz festivals, the fireworks shows -- will have to go.

"Sad, real sad," said Blaine resident Sally Cymbalsky. "I come here a lot. It makes me sad to know I won't be able to."

Tribal officials say they're dealing with several potential out-of-state buyers for the Semiahmoo, but they warn negotiations could take some time. Even if a buyer is found, officials say the inn will likely remain closed until the middle of next year.

The inn's golf course and marina will remain open.