Since Jan. 1, Eric and Michele Jurisin have been in the process of expanding the Tavern Hotel.
Come late September or early October, it will be up and running. “It’s going really well,” Eric Jurisin said of the construction.
He praised Cottonwood-based Backus Building Co. for its professionalism and craftsmanship. Jurisin — who together with wife Michele own and manage the Haunted Group, composed of four restaurants in Old Town Cottonwood and two restaurants in Jerome — has invested heavily in Old Town and saw increasing the hotel’s capacity from 13 rooms to 43 as an opportunity to appeal to a variety of guests.
The potential occupancy numbers are a big deal, according to Jurisin: 41 standard rooms and two penthouses, running at 50 percent double-room capacity throughout the year, could bring nearly 16,000 people into Old Town annually. As Jurisin reported in March, occupancy was 85 percent. Even with construction, it’s shown no slowdown since then.
“We are booked solid through the weekends until fall,” Jurisin said, adding that his focus is evolving along with the expansion to accommodate a new kind of adventurefocused guest, the sort of folks who want a true Verde Valley experience, taking advantage of all the area has to offer.
“We’re really going to focus on bringing people up for adventures, not just wine getaways,” Jurisin said.
According to Jurisin, this statement is not an implication that the wine industry is slowing down — far from it, Jurisin is a vocal supporter of the wine industry — but an acknowledgement of how many activities visitors can enjoy: Kayaking, mountain biking, ATV rentals, helicopter and Jeep tours and more.
The opening of the expanded Tavern Hotel will come with a facelift to the current Tavern Hotel building and the Tavern Grille to “make the whole corner come together.”
“We’re definitely trying to raise standards,” Jurisin said, listing hotel amenities either unknown or rare outside of Sedona: A 24-hour front desk, a concierge, an elevator and rooms with individual patios or balconies. Jurisin said that he is favoring an open-corridor design that encourages social interaction — the opposite of traditional hotels that confine guests indoors.
According to Jurisin, guests coming up from the Phoenix area in particular want to sit outside with a glass of wine and enjoy the area’s weather. In addition to expanded hotel parking behind the Tavern Grille, Jurisin intends to repave the alleyway separating the buildings.
Jurisin praised Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars founder Maynard James Keenan for increasing the marketability of Cottonwood due to winemaking. According to Jurisin, Keenan’s advocacy for the area is invaluable.
In November 2016, Keenan opened Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria in Old Town. Another of Keenan’s projects, Galileo 33, is a planned 6,500-square-foot winery, restaurant and tasting room. The 7-acre property, which sits adjacent to the Tavern Hotel, will also include approximately 5 acres of terraced vineyard with walking paths.
Though no construction start date has been announced for the project, the Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission recently removed roadblocks in the way of the developers’ plans. On June 19, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a general plan amendment and rezoning, allowing Galileo 33’s prospective buyers to purchase the two parcels of hillside property, one of which houses the vacant Masonic Lodge, at 770 N. Verde Heights Drive and 75 W. Pima Street.
“I think it’s huge,” Jurisin said of Galileo 33. “It solidifies us as wine country. We’re very excited to have them as a neighbor.”