SHERIDAN — Road construction on North Main Street finished in November. However, for hotels on that end of Sheridan, it will take some time for the potential business benefits to come to fruition.
Three hotel owners all said the construction on North Main Street and the north exit on Interstate 90 hurt business in the past two years. They expressed signs of optimism for future growth but all said the congestion and confusion caused by the various North Main projects did not help their bottom lines.
Super 8 and Budget Inn Express owner Khaled Khan said construction on North Main Street negatively impacted business during the past two years, but it should help in the long term.
“Nobody was coming to this end with all this construction, but now that it’s done, our ‘19 should be good,” Khan said.
Khan grew up around the hotel business and had family members who owned and operated them. He has been in the hotel industry since 2007 and owns five hotels, including the two in Sheridan. Khan has owned Super 8 for about seven years and Budget Inn for around four years.
Despite the experience, Khan could not overcome the closed lanes and orange cones.
He said the Super 8 lost around $200,000 in 2018 compared to the previous year and the Budget Inn Express suffered similar losses.
Super Saver Inn co-owners Jack and Sherrie Legerski have owned the hotel for about four years.
Jack Legerski said the construction caused chaos and declining sales because visitors either didn’t know the hotel was open or struggled to find the entranceways amid torn-up streets.
“People were so confused out here when they had this all shut down,” Legerski said. “… It was a nightmare.”
He said the hotel went from around 80 percent occupancy over the course of 2017 to 20 percent occupancy in 2018.
“We have to eat this (loss),” Legerski said. “We still gotta pay the lights and the gas and property taxes and everything else. It’s just not fair for the smaller people like us that are trying to make this go out here.”
The Legerskis said they won’t know the true impact until late spring, when more visitors usually start arriving. November through February are the slowest months for the hotels, while May through September leads to the most guests.They expect occupancy rates to go back to pre-construction years, but that is not a guarantee.
Jahan Zeb Khan has worked as general manager of Rodeway Inn & Suites for about two-and-a-half years.
He said all of the construction was confusing for guests to navigate and see how to access the hotel, especially for older people during nighttime.
“It was a lot of inconvenience for the guests and customers, because they had to wait and go through traffic,” he said.
The hotel operators said summer months are the best time of year because business increases and they meets all sorts of people from around the country and other places like Canada, China and Europe. Most guests stay for a few days and are on their way to or from somewhere else like Yellowstone or Custer parks.
“It’s fun in summertime,” Khaled Khan said. “You meet all different people.”
However, they all said 2018 did not bring as many tourists as regular years due to construction on the interstate and North Main Street. The hotel proprietors generally appeared bullish regarding business improvements in 2019, though.
Khaled Khan said 2019 should be an excellent year for the businesses on the north end of town. He said he has already noticed increase in vehicle traffic and customer sales in December 2018 compared to the previous December.
“I think this end is going to get really, really busy,” Khan said. “… I think this is going to be a dynamite exit for Sheridan.”
After business hit a rough patch, hotels on North Main Street are hoping to recover now that most of the construction is finished.