Bad winter forces Colebrook inn bankruptcy

The Colebrook House Inn may have survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, the drop of tourism after the 2001 terrorist attacks and every blizzard the North Country weather could hurl at it, but it couldn’t get through the few lackluster winters.

The Main Street mainstay, which has been putting up visitors since 1830, filed for bankruptcy last week, a victim of an economic miasma that has engulfed the region.

According to the bankruptcy filing, Colebrook Investment Corp. LLC – owned by Douglas and Patricia Burns – now owes more than $640,000, all but about $50,000 secured by the inn, which they bought in the summer of 2004. Most of the money is owed to First Colebrook Bank, with about a $40,000 outstanding loan to NCIC Community Investment Corp. The major unsecured loan is from Security Service Federal Credit Union, based in Texas.

The Burnses could not be reached from comment, but according to the filing, they closed the doors of the 22-room inn and 65-room restaurant in the middle of January, before the first snow hit the ground. According to the filing, the inn only brought in $301,456.78 in sales in 2006, some $160,000 less than in 2005. In January, the Inn brought in less than $14,000 in income.

“They were hit hard,” said Gloria Bunnell, office manager at the North Country Chamber of Commerce. “They did nice repairs. But the three bad winters just killed them. They lost their savings. And they weren’t from here, so they didn’t have the options that some people from the area have.”

Other innkeepers are taking various jobs and cut back on their services to try to get through the warm weather, but even those options are disappearing, as the Ethan Allen furniture plant across the Connecticut River in Vermont, one of the largest local employers, has cut back.

The chamber has taken to offering discounted tours to Canada – marketed as a last fling before the passport requirements kick in.

“We’re trying to give a shot in the arm for our tourist industry. We are hoping that it will work,” said Bunnell. – BOB SANDERS

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