Dozens of people lined up outside White Pines Resort Monday to buy memorabilia before it closes its doors forever due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Images of White Pines' parking lot and outside its gift shop showed dozens of cars and a long, single-file line of people waiting to get inside.
White Pines, located in Mount Morris, Illinois, announced on Wednesday that it would be closing permanently, unable to weather the financial storm brought by the coronavirus.
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In announcing that White Pines would be closing, owner and operator Beth George said the resort would be holding a sale Monday through Wednesday to clear out the gift shop's inventory and help pay back couples that had reserved the venue for their weddings, as well as people who had already booked a stay.
"I'm going bankrupt now so that I can hopefully pay back the people, the brides that I've sat across from and taken their money for their weddings," George said in a video posted on Facebook. She's run the business for 31 years.
"If you have ever been to White Pines and you want a little T-shirt or a coffee mug, something that reminds you of all the great times at White Pines and hiking through the forest and the campfires and the friendly servers, come on out and support it," she continued. "All that money is going to pay back the people that have supported White Pines and believed in having their wedding and maybe staying in a cabin."
George's video announcing the closure was posted to Facebook last Wednesday and shared more than 9,000 times.
“I’m putting this out on social media to let everyone know that I’m going to be one of the statistics that don’t make it,” George said, fighting back tears. “I’m filing for bankruptcy and having to close down. I'm smart enough to know that the numbers just won't work for being able to reopen."
George said that White Pines, a seasonal business that has been closed since December, can't turn a profit under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's reopening plan, which will not allow gatherings of more than 50 people until there is a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19.
Experts have said that the very earliest a vaccine might be available would be the end of 2020, though that would be the fastest a vaccine had ever been developed.
“What business could possibly go 16 months without being able to be open?” George said. “What happens if you reopen and one person gets sick? Are they going to shut everything back down? This just doesn’t make any sense in my world.”