High Propane Prices Force Business To Close

Created: 01/29/2014 10:50 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Skyrocketing propane prices have sent homeowners scrambling in recent week as they try to seal up their homes in an attempt to conserve as much warm air as possible.

But for businesses, the high prices can mean the doors stay closed.

"We've been turning away customers,” Chuck Katusky said. “I turned away a person on Monday."

Katusky is the manager of the Windmill Hotel and Event Center in Dexter, Minnesota. Right now the hotel is closed because they're out of liquid propane.

"It has just become really impossible, as cold as it is, to keep heat in the tank,” Katusky said.

With a 1,000-gallon tank to fill, and prices much higher than the $1.50 per gallon that Katusky saw a year ago, the business simply couldn't keep up.

"Last Monday we put in gas, a week ago, and it was $2.44 a gallon, which I thought was high,” Katusky said. “Now it's $5.00 dollars a gallon."

Katusky said while the rooms run on electric heat, the hotel relies on propane for warm water and for their gas dryer.

"We can't clean any rooms,” Katusky said. “So all the rooms are dirty from Sunday night and we can't clean them until we get propane."

The hotel gets its propane from the Dexter co-op, and officials there said the market has been so volatile recently that it's causing problems for both consumers and distributors.

"Right now it's up about 40 cents a gallon,” said Randy Stevenson who works for the co-op. “So it's really tough to put a price on LP right now, and I couldn't even tell you right now what to charge somebody if I wanted to."

Lawmakers have begun launching an investigation into the fluctuating prices, but for Katusky and his wife, who took over the business less than a year ago, they need something to change soon.

"We're essentially a start-up business,” Katusky said. “We're just getting it going good and we can't afford this price gouging."

It’s an unfortunate irony for a hotel that's namesake creates energy out of thin air.

"There's windmills everywhere around here to generate energy, but that's a different kind of energy than what we need,” Katusky said.

Although the Windmill Hotel is currently closed to customers, Katusky said they are looking to get a new supply of propane in the next couple days and should hopefully be back in business by the weekend.