COOS BAY — The City of Coos Bay Wednesday joined a number of other cities on the Oregon coast in approving a resolution that asks Gov. Kate Brown to mandate a closure of lodging for people whose need for lodging is non-essential.
Over the weekend, a number of Oregon’s coastal cities saw an influx of tourism even though it was suggested by the Governor last Friday that Oregonians stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We heard from different mayors in different towns, Tillamook county and Tillamook itself, and they were very frustrated in the small towns where tourists had come in and inundated the town,” Coos Bay mayor Joe Benetti said. “Basically they raided the stores and emptied them, leaving no supplies for the locals themselves.”
Many of the coastal cities reached out to the Governor’s office, and asked that lodging be closed to stop tourists from coming into coastal communities and using resources those communities need for their local populations. However, on Monday when Brown announced a "Stay Home" order for Oregonians, lodging services were not suspended.
“Emergency actions were taken over the weekend by some, and several communities implemented anywhere from closures of all tourist businesses, to closing down beaches,” Coos Bay City Manager Rodger Craddock said. “One had a resolution that closed down state and federal parks, and even another one ordered tourists out of town.”
Cities on the coast have since banded together to approve a resolution that asks Gov. Brown to mandate the closure of lodging with a few exceptions. The Coos Bay City Council met Wednesday afternoon to join other Oregon cities and counties in approving a resolution that asks the Governor to take action on tourism lodging.
In response to potential lodging closures, local Best Western Holiday Hotel manager Joseph Monahan reached out to the City Council with his concerns ahead of the council’s decision. Monahan’s main concerns to his business included having to close off hotel reservations systems for internet bookings and third party bookings, and noting all the people who provide necessary services to the community that stay in local hotels.
“We have many companies that send essentials people to our area to work everything from visiting pharmacist, nurses truck drivers that will be delivering food and meds. Pacific Power, Frontier, Charter and medical supply companies,” Monahan said.
The council noted as a response to Monahan that the resolution has taken folks who stay in hotels that provide essential services into account.
Director of the Coos Bay-North Bend Visitor and Convention Bureau Janice Langlinas discussed with the council the hotels' concerns about internet third party bookings.
“If a hotel is forced to close, even if there is exceptions, they have to take themselves off the third party booking sites,” Langlinais said. “There are many companies with contract workers who can only book their rooms through these third party bookers. If the hotel is no longer registering on those sites they can no longer book. These contractors can’t just call the Best Western and book a room, because they won’t get reimbursed by their corporation. That may change because of COVID-19, but it’s a risk truckers may not be willing to take, and it’s mostly truckers.”
The council reiterated the resolution specifically states that lodging would be closed to people visiting the area, not those in town for necessary business.
“I think the resolution is spelled out in a way that online booking sites will not have to shut down. We’re just limiting the guests that can come into these facilities at this point,” Coos Bay City Councilor Lucinda Di Novo said.
As a member of the homeless work group, Councilor Drew Farmer mentioned there is potential funding available to provide shelter to homeless populations in lodging facilities, and that those populations should be included in the list of exceptions in the resolution.
“There are dollars out there to house individuals who are homeless, who are likely the most susceptible to this issue, and the most likely to transmit it due to their transient nature,” Farmer said. “I don’t see that issue addressed in this resolution, I see where it could present a barrier to it."
The resolution reads, “To request with this resolution, that Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon, include in her next Executive Order the recommendations of the Oregon Legislative Coastal Caucus to close all transient lodging facilities to stay and purchase to persons of less than 28 days in our coastal counties and their communities, until May 1, 2020, with limited exceptions to individuals in the trucking industry, victims of domestic violence, health care workers, contract workers, and others that may be deemed as essential personnel services.”
The council agreed with Farmer and adopted the resolution with the amendment that homeless people be included in the list of exceptions.
According to Langlinais, the current occupancy percentage of Coos Bay lodging facilities is roughly 30 percent, most of which she said are contractors, truck drivers and construction workers.