NEWPORT — Rogue Ales, according to city officials, didn’t pay $50,000 of transient room taxes owed from renting out three short-term vacation rentals as part of a “Bed ’n’ Beer” tourism campaign the local institution launched in 2007.
While the city didn’t have any regulations governing VRD (vacation rental dwelling) owners when the company started renting out short-term rentals, Rogue continued to operate without acquiring a vacation rental license endorsement, a requirement the city has for vacation rental owners to operate VRDs.
Rogue recently did apply for a conditional use permit so they could keep the parking necessary for the three apartments the business rents out as short-term rentals, according to an email between Rod Croteau, a planning commissioner, and the Newport City Council.
“It is notable the Rogue deleted their online VRD advertising immediately before making their April 2019 application,” Croteau wrote on June 2. “They made no mention of their past room tax obligation.”
Local Rogue employees told the News-Times they didn’t know anything about the company owing seven years worth of transient room taxes to the City of Newport, and it seems higher-ups at the company weren’t aware they had to apply for a license to continue operating the vacation rentals in Newport.
“It’s something that came up when we were looking at the Bed ‘n’ Beer down there and we had to get a new permit,” Rogue Ales President Dharma Tamm said Thursday. “This isn’t something we intended to do. We’ll work with the city to get this solved and we’re still figuring it out.”
Tamm and employees of Rogue realized they needed a license endorsement to continue operating the Bed ‘n’ Beer tourism promotion after applying for the conditional use permit, Tamm said. Issues surrounding the conditional use permit to keep parking spaces brought it to light.
“When the conditional use permit came up, that was when we started trying to make sure everything was copacetic,” Tamm said.
In the meantime, the company website states they are not taking any more reservations for Bed ’n’ Beer, and a link to more information about the tourism promotion leads to a deleted webpage.
The issue came before the Newport City Council at the June 3 meeting, when the council discussed the email from Croteau and asked City Manager Spencer Nebel to collect more information and write up a report on the issue.
“They provided us and the county the number of nights all the way back to 2007, when they initiated operations,” said Newport Community Development Director Derrick Tokos. “That’s been tabulated into the room tax, with penalty and interest.”
While Nebel plans to draft a report for the city council, planning commissioners also want to take action, thinking it will give the city’s actions even greater weight.
“I would feel better if the city council heard from the commission that we’re concerned about these kinds of things,” said Jim Hanselman, a planning commissioner. “Multiple commissioners have concerns about this.”
Rogue might not be the only VRD operator to fly under the radar. Newport officials don’t know how many short-term vacation rentals are being operated illegally in the city.
“We’re somewhere between 80 and 85 percent compliance, but it’s hard to say,” said Tokos on Tuesday in a phone interview. “The number isn’t known at this time.”