HOLTVILLE — A music festival is just one of a few ways Barbara Worth Country Club is hoping to welcome guests back through their doors this fall as temperatures begin to cool.
“Without a doubt we are going to have a music festival here in October,” Holtville’s country club owner Eddie Mejorado said. “We are going to have to do a calendar where we are going to have monthly events outdoors.”
Mejorado has spent most of the slow summer days brainstorming creative ideas with his business manager Steve Rogers as the coronavirus pandemic has continued to keep the club’s convention center and bar closed.
“I don’t want to sound negative, but as a business owner I can tell you, even if you get the greenlight to open, you still have another hurdle,” Mejorado said. “You have to be successful, not just open.”
Mejorado explained how the club’s convention center for events, which held up to 700 people, was often one of the most profitable parts of the Country Club, exceeding both the hotel and dining sectors of the facility.
“This room was our money maker,” Mejorado said. “It was very lucrative. We were booked every weekend.”
Unfortunately, as the pandemic struck the Imperial Valley, Mejorado also faced financial hardship when he discovered the 110-acre partial property was in default of a $3.5 million loan that dated back to 2012, prior to when Mejorado took ownership of the club in 2018.
“It’s not a little bit of money, it’s $3.5 million, but we paid it off,” Mejorado said. “We took care of it, but then it was during COVID, so it didn’t make it any easier on me.”
Despite Mejorado’s payment to the bank having stopped the property from heading to the public auction block in June, the pandemic continued to have a tight financial grip on the club’s ability to raise profits throughout the summer months.
At the moment, the only regularly open portion of the club is its hotel, which has recently changed names to include “Ramada by Wyndham,” after Mejorado successfully pursued a franchise agreement with one of the largest hotel chains in the country.
“Wyndham does help a bit, but remember, we’re a resort,” Mejorado said. “We are made for traveling.”
Additional measures were also put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the resort hotel, including a three-day quarantine of recently used rooms that cannot be reserved until cleared, Mejorado explained. Also, the club’s golf course has implemented guidelines requiring only one person per golf cart and no more than four players per hole, Mejorado said.
Most recently the club was able to bring in some familiar faces as dove-hunting guests returned to the resort at the start of September to carry out their annual tradition despite the ongoing pandemic.
“Generations of dove hunters have been coming and staying here,” Mejorado’s business manager Rogers said.
Despite some returning tourists, Mejorado has had to reduce staff size to adapt to the continued closure of the club’s indoor events and bar.
“We cut off a lot of employees,” Mejorado said. “It really hurts me to let some of the guys go or cut their hours, but we have to, and they’ll come back as soon as we are ready.”
Although the club is permitted to hold outdoor events with social-distancing measures in place, the Imperial Valley heat has made the idea of opening up seem unrealistic, explained Mejorado.
“It was hard enough before, now imagine with COVID,” he said. “It’s a trickle effect, no income, less workers, worse course … to keep a golf course looking good, not excellent but good, takes at least six workers.”
In the meantime, Mejorado and his business manager are holding out hope for the Valley’s cool fall weather to come as quickly as possible so they can start utilizing their outdoor dining patio for events they’ve been planning all summer.
“I think we are going to do a little more of the outdoor festivities,” Mejorado said.
Beyond the October music festival, the country club is considering movie night on the golf course, a mud run and possibly a revitalization of the Holtville Rib Cook-off at the resort, he said. The dates for the music festival and other outdoor events planned at the club will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information on the Barbara Worth Country Club and its upcoming events, contact the country club at 760-356-5800.
This story is featured in the Sep 17, 2020 e-Edition.