Lack of cash forcing Vernon's O'Keefe Ranch to close early | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Lack of cash forcing Vernon's O'Keefe Ranch to close early

The original house of the O'Keefe family.
August 21, 2020 - 10:15 AM

Due to its dire financial situation, the Historic O'Keefe Ranch, a popular North Okanagan tourist attraction, will be laying off its staff and shutting up early this year in an effort to survive.

The Ranch will close its doors Sept. 30, just before what is normally one of its busiest and most lucrative months, but does plan to open again in spring 2021.

Historic O'Keefe Ranch president Bruce Cummings told all expenses had to be cut if the Ranch was to reopen next year.

"We've decided that it's not feasible to continue after September 30, because essentially we won't be able to pay anyone anymore," Cummings said. "It's unfortunate that we've had to make this decision but there are too many what-ifs for us to continue for now."

Cummings said while October is ordinarily a very busy month with popular events like the Field of Screams and the corn maze, the events would not take place this year because of COVID-19 cutting off an important revenue stream.

Cummings said the lack of weddings and school groups and other cancelled big events, combined with fewer tourists had caused the not-for-profit organization severe financial hardship. Several grants the O'Keefe Ranch ordinarily receives had also not materialized.

The Ranch has requested a $70,000 loan payment to the City of Vernon be deferred for two years, along with more than $70,000 of insurance payments. Vernon council has yet to make a decision and is likely to vote on the matter in the near future. At council's Aug. 17 meeting, Councillors discussed whether the Regional District of North Okanagan and the District of Coldstream should also help out financially.

Cummings said while attendance at the Ranch this summer has been reasonable, entrance fees have had to be by donation. The Ranch has recently launched a fundraising campaign aiming to raise $250,000. Cummings said roughly $21,000 had been raised so far.

With the earlier closure of the Ranch, over a dozen staff members will be out of a job. Cummings said it was unfortunate but it was the only way to be able to open in 2021.

"It's a gem and its important to preserve," Cummings said. "It's not like we're dead... (but) we want to live to open another day."

READ MORE: How to inherit a $28M property: The story behind the O'Keefe Range

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