Eldorado rises from the ashes

DAWSON CITY Get close enough and one call still smell smoke soaked into the beams that supported the roof of Dawson City’s Eldorado Hotel…

DAWSON CITY

Get close enough and one call still smell smoke soaked into the beams that supported the roof of Dawson City’s Eldorado Hotel before a fire gutted the top floor of the venerable hotel.

Most of what was salvageable from the April 12 fire that caused, according to the owners, nearly $1.5 million in damages, has been sprayed down with a paint meant to conceal the pungent post-blaze smell.

And there’s a new roof, along with a renovated lounge and a new exterior matching other faux-Klondike era storefronts.

“We started building as soon as the fire inspector finished his job and turned it over to us,” said Peter Jenkins, long-time owner of The Eldorado.

Before rebuilding, though, Jenkins and his wife, Karen, had to deal with the initial shock of what remained of their business after fire ravaged its innards.

“Your emotion takes over common sense,” said Jenkins. “You have to sit down and chart a blueprint of where you want to go.

“There’s always a time when you wished it burnt down to the ground and you could walk away with a total settlement. But that wasn’t an option.”

Located at the corner of Third Avenue and Princess Street in the town of about 2,000, the Eldorado is one of three larger hotels in Dawson.

The blaze destroyed 13 of 52 suites and caused significant smoke and water damage throughout the building, including the restaurant, which was slated to reopen Wednesday, and the lounge, which has been open since June 1.

Carpets were ripped up and ventilations systems replaced.

Exposed studs can be found in hotel corridors littered with steel beams and construction equipment.

An employee hauled paintings and framed newspaper clipping into the restaurant Monday afternoon.

The smell of leather from new furniture in the lounge mixed with remnants of smoke.

An electrical fire originating with an energy-saver light bulb is tagged for causing the blaze, said Jenkins. While he is busy haggling with insurance adjusters over the actual cost of rebuilding, the cost of waiting for a final estimate wasn’t viable, he said.

“When you’re short a dozen rooms, that hurts the bottom line,” said Jenkins, a former Yukon cabinet minister. “We’re in the food business, too, so that gross is way down (while waiting to reopen the restaurant). Cash flow is critical.”

When the Eldorado will be operating as it did last summer, Jenkins doesn’t know — that depends on the insurance companies’ willingness to payout, he said — but every day the hotel is short of rooms is revenue lost for a place usually running at high capacity, said Jenkins.

He does expect to be running at normal capacity next spring.

“(The adjusters) are trying to pay as little as possible and trying to justify that with estimates,” said Jenkins.

The hotel was originally built in 1972. Jenkins bought it from his former father-in-law and another businessman in the late 1970s.

“It’s been one of those labours of love,” said Jenkins.

A major expansion followed in the 1980s, and Jenkins is taking the opportunity afforded to him by the blaze to further develop his business by upgrading rooms.

“You have to upgrade; that’s constant,” he said.

The hotel usually employs about 50 people in the summer, but the reduced capacity has reduced the number this year.

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