The landmark resort overlooking Canandaigua Lake shuts its doors to the public
SOUTH BRISTOL — On the same day the Finger Lakes region began reopening from the governor’s pause order because of COVID-19, owners of Bristol Harbour Resort announced the closing of the landmark attraction.
The news came as a shock to many including local officials and tourism leaders. Owners Todd and Laura Cook on Friday announced the decision on the resort’s website and hundreds of Facebook comments followed, including those from people who had booked weddings and other upcoming events.
South Bristol Town Supervisor Dan Marshall said he was shocked by the closing. He called the loss of Bristol Harbour “significant.”
The Cooks plan to maintain the property for their own personal use, according to the announcement. It says in part: “The COVID-19 Crisis has brought to light incredible challenges for the hospitality industry, including Bristol Harbour. We have faced the dilemma of how to operate a business designed to bring people together, in a time when it is our social responsibility to stay a part … this announcement comes as the result of our family’s dedication to transparency, as we want to ensure that our guests and employees are safe and healthy …”
Bristol Harbour first opened in 1972 as a golf course designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones. Located on property high above Canandaigua Lake with panoramic views, the site grew to include an upscale restaurant, lodge and banquet facility. The Cooks bought Bristol Harbour in 2016, with its restaurant, hotel, golf course and other amenities.
“Under the current restrictions for golf course use, our golf course will remain open to members only until further notice for the remainder of the 2020 season. Following the 2020 golf season, the course will be closed to the public,” the Cooks announced.
Valerie Knoblauch, president of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, said Bristol Harbour’s closing is “very unfortunate for our area.” She also was caught off guard by the announcement and hadn’t had contact with the resort owners, she said.
“It is a unique property and this will create a void in the upscale market. These are unsettling times for the entire travel and tourism industry,” said Knoblauch, whose organization is spear-heading cooperative, promotional efforts for the region’s tourism sector.
Unfortunately, there may be others forced to make this difficult decision, she said.
“Everyone in the industry is evaluating how secure they are in the moment and how secure they are going forward,” Knoblauch said.
Under the state’s current plan, sit-down service in restaurants and hotels are in later phases of the reopening. Two new luxury hotels are scheduled to open later this year in Canandaigua, The Lake House on Canandaigua and Canandaigua Finger Lakes Resort.
The Cooks could not be reached directly for further comment over the weekend. Supervisor Marshall said he hadn’t had any recent contact with the Cooks since their application process for Everwilde Inn & Spa project had been put on hold.
When the Cooks bought Bristol Harbour in January 2016, they had been in the spotlight for months over their controversial Everwilde Inn & Spa proposal. The plan called for developing 46 vacant acres with a lakefront, across from Bristol Harbour at the intersection of Seneca Point and Coye roads. The Cooks purchased that property from Wegmans Food Markets Inc. for $1.3 million, Ontario County records show.
A lengthy approval process for Everwilde got underway with town officials in South Bristol. Numerous heated meetings with residents took place, with the controversy centered largely over concerns with Everwilde’s impact on lake health and the rural character of the neighborhood. The Cooks purchased Bristol Harbour for $9.6 million, according to county records. They made staff changes and did major renovations to the facility. Their purchase of the property included Bristol Harbour’s sewer facilities, with the idea that Everwilde would use those facilities — removing one of the major environmental concerns.
Marshall said that the years-long approval process for Everwilde, which had gone back to the Planning Board over further revisions, was making some headway — then COVID-19 hit.
Rather than tackle further discussions remotely, the process was put on hold, Marshall said.