July 22, 2009

Hard Times comes a'knockin' at the door

Courtyard at the defunct Hotel Los Arcos
We will have been in Baja for a year by next month. I have cheated part of that time by having stayed away in Denver for the last 3 months recovering from shoulder surgery. Its a sad state of affairs. Even before I left it was noticeable that the Baja economy was struggling with a triple whammy. Coupled with the H1N1 virus scare, gringo fear of drug violence, and the meltdown of the U.S. economy, the tourist business is extremely slow in Baja. In the last 4 months their economy has eroded.

To start with, our favorite hotel in La Paz, Hotel Los Arcos, has been shut down since last November from a labor strike and has been sitting all boarded up since then. What a waste! It is in such a great location right across from the Malecon, and served up the best breakfast in town in my opinion—as well as some superb Margaritas in the bar. Last time we stayed at the Club El Morro and the accommodations were pretty, but they sure didn’t know how to make an even decent Margarita; the remembrance of those evil super sugar-y Margaritas makes my tongue want to shrivel up and die. I don’t know what will happen to Los Arcos, but I hope they win their lawsuit and can open up again sometime.

In June, the bankrupt Inn at Loreto Bay shut its doors and is looking for new owners and a cash infusion. It was such a great destination resort, low key and restful--right in Loreto, a hop, skip and jump from the airport. Gone are the availability of pretty rooms; the nice beach and adjacent pool where grandchildren can frolic; the pleasant outdoor dining, and the gentle slow resort just right for wallowing in the sun. Did I mentioned the golf course and daily activities calendar are gone too? I hope someone purchases it and sets it back up in business again (but when will the tourists even return to Mexico is anyone’s guess). Coupled with the hotel, the new construction at the resort of handsome townhomes has gone down the tubes and the developers that took people’s money upfront haven’t even left them with a hole in the ground.

Moving north back up the Peninsula toward Santa Rosalia our next victim is the Bar/Restaurant at Playa Buenaventura owned by Mark and Olivia Burbey who own our favorite hamburger location pitstop on the drive back from Loreto to Santa Rosalia. Their cute little restaurant/bar sits plop in front of the beautiful Sea of Cortez and the view is unparalleled. They also rent out space to RV’s and have a few humble cottages for hire. Mark told us his business was doing poorly last February. At that time when he is normally booked with 60 people he was only expecting 6. They are open for business, but are suffering. Stop by and eat a great burger if you are in the area. Tell them the copper miners from Santa Rosalia sent you.

Finally in Santa Rosalia one of our few nicer restaurant options, Tuxpan, bit the dust in June as well. Last year it was the site of our company Christmas party. The landlord wanted to up the rent and the owners couldn’t afford to pay more. In the ultimate moment of moving out it is reputed that the landlord had a change of heart, but the owners couldn’t afford to move everything back again. Gone the beautiful view, decent food, and all that great parking for passing RVs. Perhaps in another couple of months the mine activity in Santa Rosalia will start to pick up and infuse the economy there with some badly needed impetus.

Sad times for Baja, living on the edge.

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