Wheatley Hotel owner says business was picking up before the explosion, but now faces an uncertain future

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A hotel owner in the closed area of ​​downtown Wheatley, Ont., Expresses no optimism about the future of his business after last week’s explosion that injured 20 people and destroyed two buildings nearby.

“It was really starting to take off, now it’s just on hold I guess,” said Paul De Goey.

“There are ups and downs in every business, but it’s just something we never dreamed of.”

De Goey owns the Wheatley Hotel, just off The Pogue on Talbot Road, a former pub that last Thursday’s explosion turned to rubble. He said he had just completed construction of the new four-bedroom hotel with an adjoining living room, and that it had only been opened a few months before the explosion.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent said two buildings were destroyed and about half a dozen buildings will need to be examined for structural integrity.

De Goey hasn’t been able to cross the gates in the area to see his business up close, but looking at the photos he thinks it’s unrecoverable as well.

“If it had been downtown Toronto, I don’t think it would have ever been this far. “

De Goey said he and his business partner probably spent around $ 1 million on the construction of the new hotel, but he is now uncertain about the future.

“Now we have no direction where we’re going – are we going to be able to move forward with this?” he said. “There are just a lot of questions and no one here is ready to answer.”

Wheatley Hotel owner Paul De Goey is wondering if buildings in the area around the blast can be considered safe again. (Jacob Barker / CBC)

He said he was concerned about the future of his business, but worried about local owners.

“If they don’t consider these buildings or houses to be safe, who is going to insure them, and if they can’t get insurance, then the next phone call will be the financial institution. Who is going to finance a building that doesn’t. is not insurable? ” De Goey said.

“Who’s going to pay for all of this?”

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Chatham-Kent said she was working with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office and consulting with technical experts to “analyze current risks and consider adjustments to the evacuation area and detour routes.”

April Rietdyk, the municipality’s director general of community social services, said their workers will meet with displaced families this week to discuss longer-term plans for those who may not be able to return home in the near future.

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“Some of the people who lived very, very close to this blast site, they will certainly be away longer than some of the people who kind of live on the perimeter of this evacuation area,” she said. “It all depends on when that area is cleared, when the utilities are turned back on, and when it is safe for people to return home. “

She said they had not received any indication of when it might be.

Rietdyk added that by the end of the day on Saturday, his employees had helped 75 families with everything from gift cards to food and clothing to finding shelter. She said they have helped more than a dozen families with hotels, but others are hosted by community members.

“It’s amazing to see the community step in and take care of their neighbors. It’s really, really touching,” she said.

The municipality had no update on Sunday on the work underway at the site, but said on Saturday the situation remained volatile and that it was in talks with the province to call in technical experts to find the source of the leak. .


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