COVID-19 travel restrictions hurting local hotels

Bloomington DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center. (Photo courtesy: DoubleTree/Facebook)


By Blake Haas

BLOOMINGTON – With Gov. Pritzker extending the “stay-at-home” guidelines until April 30, local hotels are feeling the pinch of decreased travel.

“It’s scary times for us right now. Our business has basically, not just DoubleTree business, but business across the country and world, for hotels our business came to a screeching halt,” said Bloomington DoubleTree by Hilton General Manager Raymond Ceresa. “Last week we were sold out probably four of the seven days prior to this pandemic…Once everything was announced, and the “shelter-in-place” was announced, business started canceling left and right.”

Located at 10 Brickyard Dr., Ceresa said last week the DoubleTree employed around 125 employees; however, cancellations have forced Ceresa to lay-off around 100 employees.

“My employees are hourly employees, and in the hotel industry, their hours are being cut drastically,” added Ceresa, who also serves as the President of the Bloomington-Normal Hotel & Lodging Association. “So almost 100 people that are being affected here just at the DoubleTree. We’ve encouraged all of our employees that are affected by this to file for Unemployment.”

However, Ceresa added that when employees go to file for Unemployment, they are denied access to apply due to a large number of people applying.

“I’ve had employee’s that the Unemployment system for the Illinois Department of Employment of Security has been so overwhelmed with applicants that I have employee’s daily coming in and trying to apply for Unemployment and the system just can’t handle the amount of applicant’s that they are getting around the state. I had one employee last week who tried for four-days, just trying to apply, and the system would crash.”

Over the first three weeks of March, IDES received over 130,000 unemployment benefit claims.

Blake Haas can be reached at


Is federal mobilization the answer?

By Mike Matejka As President Donald Trump threatens to send federal marshals into Chicago, over the objections of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, recall another Illinois Governor who protested the incursion of armed federal personnel into the city.   Those federal troops, rather than calming, escalated the situation, leading to deaths and violence. Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay…

In these troubled times, to my fellow white Americans

By Mike Matejka Our nation is at a unique watershed in human relations. African-Americans have been killed too many times in the past before George Floyd, but the response to this man’s death is international and all-encompassing. I was a grade-schooler during the Civil Rights 1960s. I watched Birmingham demonstrators hosed and the Selma – Montgomery…

Workers’ Memorial Day – Remember those whose job took their life

Looking around our community, when we say employer, most will respond to State Farm, Country, or Illinois State University.   We too often forget those who are building our roads, serving our food, or our public employees. COVID-19 has made us more aware of the risk.  Going to work every day for some people means…

Everyone counts and you could make the difference

By Mike Matejka How many federal dollars will there be for road repairs?  To feed hungry families?  How many Illinois representatives will there be in Congress?  Are Illinois communities going to get their fair share? There’s only one way to ensure our community gets treated properly – answer the census. The every ten year U.S. census,…