Uncertainty, disappointment follows the closing of the landmark resort, which is now private property with members-only golf for a limited time.
SOUTH BRISTOL — A private survey gauging interest in “a potential golf offering” at the shuttered Bristol Harbour Resort comes as neighbors and others react to last month’s announcement.
Owners Todd and Laura Cook cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for closing the resort, in an announcement posted May 15 on Bristol Harbour’s website. Golf members can use the course until the end of the 2020 season, when it would then close to the public. Among the questions asked in a survey of current Bristol Harbour golfers and others are “Do you belong to a different golf course?” and “What amenities would you be willing to pay for?”
Like the Bristol Harbour closing itself, the survey raises questions over the future of the property in South Bristol that for decades was a regional attraction. The Cooks stated they will maintain the property for their personal use.
First opened in 1972 as a golf course designed by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones, the property with panoramic views of Canandaigua Lake grew to include an upscale restaurant, lodge and banquet facility popular for weddings. The Cooks bought Bristol Harbour in 2016.
Neighboring residents, the town supervisor and others said they were blindsided by the closing, although some said they saw it coming.
Candace Ryan, a resident of neighboring Bristol Harbour Village, said the Cooks had alienated her and many others since they bought the resort.
“They sold the marina. They closed the restaurant completely in October in 2019. They don’t seem to want residents as their patrons,” Ryan wrote in an email.
Ryan and her husband Bill moved to Bristol Harbour Village in 2006.
“Now that we are in the reopening phase of our local economy, and it is time for the lodge to start its wedding season, the Cooks have decided that they are closing the business completely ...
“What will all of this mean for our community? We don’t know. The view is still beautiful, but apparently they won’t be sharing it. It’s really sad,” Ryan wrote in the email.
The Cooks did not respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment.
Bristol Harbour Resort “was more than just a business. It was a way of life for so many,” said South Bristol Town Supervisor Dan Marshall. “What an absolute shame for the residents and not just for them. It was a go-to destination like other attractions the town is proud of.”
He mentioned Bristol Mountain Ski and Snowboard Resort, Boy Scout Camp Cutler and Cumming Nature Center among others.
“To say we are done with it, it’s very disappointing,” Marshall said. He talked to town attorney, Jeff Graff, to see if anything can be done.
“It is not illegal to close a business,” Marshall said. “Is it ethical, given so many residents of Bristol Harbour were dependent upon it and they purchased a lifestyle?”
Baird and Marcia Couch moved to Bristol Harbour Village in 2001. Although shocked by the sudden closing of the resort, Baird said he also saw signs. Another resident who described being alienated, Baird said that wasn’t the case under previous owners when the residents of Bristol Harbour Village and the resort owners enjoyed a friendly, cooperative relationship.
“It’s a sad situation,” said Bristol Harbour Village resident Barb Hunt. “It affects the whole economy. They were a big employer. This affects a lot of lives.”
Valerie Knoblauch, president of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection and the Ontario County tourism bureau, said Bristol Harbour filled a need for a high-end resort and wedding venue. She said she is hopeful for the opening of two new hotels expected later this year at the north end of Canandaigua Lake — The Lake House on Canandaigua and Canandaigua Finger Lakes Resort — which she said she foresees filling that gap.