The Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center abrupty closed this week. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Presque Isle hotel abruptly closed its doors Monday, leaving employees floundering.

Signs were posted at the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center doors on Monday that said “We are closed indefinitely.” 

The abrupt closure has stunned people in the Star City as the future of the iconic inn remains in question. Once a popular hotel, restaurant and night spot, the facility most recently housed 21 people experiencing homelessness and was at the center of controversy in Presque Isle. Those residents left in October for other arrangements, but employees who lived there are now without a job or a home.

“[The hotel employees] felt like they had a secure job and a secure home, and now the rug has been pulled out from under them,” general manager Jamie Gray said Tuesday. “Right now everyone is trying to work and help each other.”

Owner Cang Quach notified Gray of the closure on Sunday, Jan. 8, and employees were told during a meeting Monday. The news came as a shock to all of them, and by Tuesday anger had set in with the staff feeling left out in the cold, she said.

Gray and nearly 80 percent of the inn’s employees actually live on site, she said. About half the staff want to stay in Presque Isle, and half want to move elsewhere to find employment and housing.  

Quach is in talks with Presque Isle officials today, according to city Code Enforcement Officer Tim St. Peter. People at city hall received word yesterday that the inn was closed.

Quach did not respond to numerous requests for comment. 

Hotel staff and contractors were working on fixing code violations by repairing the roof and siding, but there is nothing to suggest the closure came from code violations, St. Peter said.

City officials had no further information, according to St. Peter.

The closure came internally, said Steve Plummer, who worked previously at the inn’s fitness center as a trainer.  Plummer now runs his own business, Aroostook County Fitness, in Presque Isle. Because Plummer is a former employee, he still has access to some internal communications from the inn, he said.

The Maine Department of Labor is in contact with the Presque Isle Inn and a Rapid Response team is working with the hotel to assist affected employees, Communications Manager Jessica Picard said Tuesday. Any workers impacted by the Presque Isle Inn layoff should reach out to the Presque Isle CareerCenter, she said. 

Labor officials have scheduled a Rapid Response session at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Presque Isle Inn. Services for affected workers will include resources for new lodging, unemployment insurance and health insurance options, along with help with employment such  as the Maine JobLink and Career Center services, Picard said.

The inn opened in the 1970s as the Swamp Fox Motor Inn, and became Keddy’s in the 1980s. In 2000, owner Kevin Simmons opened it as the Presque Isle Inn & Convention Center, and also owned the Caribou Inn & Convention Center. Simmons lost his battle with cancer in early 2021.

Quach, originally from San Francisco and the owner of a hotel and recreational vehicle park in Colorado, purchased the property in November 2021. He said then he planned to renovate the interior and exterior of the building. The roof was replaced and work was being done on the siding, but other work was yet to be redone, like parking lot paving.

The Time Out Sports Bar opened in 2017, replacing the previous popular night spot, The Connection. The Olde Gaol Tavern completed renovations and reopened in March 2022.

Signs at the property still advertised the Time Out Sports Bar as being open. On Monday evening lights could be seen in rooms on the upper floors, but the lobby area and bar windows were in darkness. 

However, Quach apologized for letting everyone down in a message to employees, according to Plummer. The message said the inn would be locked by the bank and the property winterized for security reasons, and that employees should find housing as soon as possible.

Employees of the hotel were angry at the news and the key card security system for the hotel had been changed and the front desk telephones were disconnected, Plummer said.