‘The streets are pretty bare and empty’: Ferguson Fire hurts Yosemite-area merchants

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Business at the Hotel Charlotte outside Yosemite National Park was so brisk in the first five years that Doug and Jenn Edwards owned it, they purchased the Groveland Hotel across the street last summer and spent $600,000 renovating it.

It seemed like a sound investment, considering both lodgings were nearly fully booked from May through October.

That was until the fire that’s still burning near the park forced the closing of the Yosemite Valley on July 25. Bookings have dropped by half since then, with more than 400 room nights getting canceled right at the peak of tourism season, when nightly rates are at their highest.

“It’s been pretty devastating for our business, in particular, as well as the town,’’ Jenn Edwards said, referring to Groveland, the last town on Highway 120 on the way to Yosemite in California. “We can’t even keep up with the cancellations right now. This is not the time we need to lose at least $100,000 in reservations.’’

The Edwards’ plight is echoed by merchants in and around Yosemite, from restaurateurs to shopkeepers to tour operators in tourist-dependent towns like Mariposa, Wawona, El Portal, Groveland and Oakhurst.

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