A cable piece, “Rotting Woodstock,” started screening last week on Hotel Impossible, a show on The Travel Channel and currently in rotation, has become a huge topic of conversation around town and county. For the owners of the Woodstock Lodge, profiled in the contentious segment starring host “hotel expert” Anthony Melchiorri, it’s all part and parcel of a lawsuit now.
Meanwhile, questions have been flying: “How in the world is the Woodstock Lodge and Havana Café allowed to remain open after what I saw on the television show,” came one. “Utterly amazing and scary and embarrassing to Woodstock and people from the area like me.”
In the program, things start off pleasantly enough as Melchiorri drives up to what was once the Pinecrest Lodge, opened a century ago by Mordecai Berkowitz and known for years as a respectable seasonal getaway with cabins, a private lounge area, and a great pool all nestled under tall pines just outside the hamlet center. In the last decades, it’s been known as one of the few late night spots in town. But it’s obvious things in the show will run awry fast; the previews tease as much. And the host’s brusk Brooklyn approach as much as guarantees a confrontation.
Melchiorri, who spent 20 years working as a New York City hotel manager before starting his own Argeo Hospitality consulting business and capturing a primetime Travel Channel slot, meets Carlo and Annie Pombo, owners of the renamed Woodstock Lodge for the past 17 years. He hears how hard it’s been, but seems charmed by the setting, the town, main building’s bar area with giant stone fireplace, its side porch restaurant area. Then the rental cabins come into view and flaws unfold: lots of dust, rips in furniture, damp floors, mold.
By program’s end, the Hotel Impossible crew — who usually come in, list complaints and do some fast renovations before leaving — have brought in mold, asbestos and basic infrastructure experts from around the area who show them, and us, the details of the Lodge’s cabins conditions and call them unsafe and in need of demolition. Yet despite big kitchen and menu problems, Melchiorri feels things can be turned around if the restaurant is upgraded and made a destination. After all, it’s pointed out, it is Woodstock, and the Hudson Valley is all about foodies these days.
Enter hell, stage right. Carlo Pombo tosses the host, allows him back in, then tosses them yet again before finally letting them finish a redo on the front bar/reception and dining rooms. Only without anything but a voiceover at the end. And then comes this week’s news: They’re suing Melchiorri, the producers, and the Travel Channel.
“We’re going into litigation,” said Annie. “We really can’t say anything.”
Who’s in charge?
Meanwhile, those questions have kept coming in. How have they stayed open? How can things get so bad?
Granted, some people we watched the episode with identified with all Melchiorri and crew were uncovering. Moist walls, black mold showing up, disappearing foundations, bad wiring? Dust and old carpeting in need of replacement?
Then there’s the fact that a similar episode shot last winter, and shown in late April, depicting a similar stand-off and renovations at the Catskill Mountain Lodge in nearby Palenville turned out alright in the end.
Upon investigation, it turns out that motels, hotels and cabin colonies are regulated by state law, and overseen by the state Department of Health which mandates permits and inspections to be overseen by county health departments, or cities if over 50,000 in population. Similarly, the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Community Environmental Health and Food Protection “works to protect the public health by assuring that food service establishments are operated in a manner that eliminates hazards through design and management, resulting in a decreased incidence of foodborne illness in our communities.”
We checked in with the county as to their inspection processes, and whether they were actually handling such matters for the state…and were repeatedly told that no one could answer press questions without the okay of either a commissioner or the county executive.
Finally, we turned to the Town of Woodstock, where supervisor Jeremy Wilber filled in some of the place’s long history, including several years when its restaurant was run by the legendary Marylou Paturel of Café Espresso fame…and confirmed that oversight and inspections were definitely in the county’s hands.
“Which does not mean that the town has been totally oblivious,” he added.
Until the courts get involved…?