Some lodging to open this weekend

Under new guidelines for lodging facilities, signage is required reminding the public of physical distancing and other health guidelines. Signage is already up in the Best Western Agate Beach Inn. (Courtesy photo)

LINCOLN COUNTY — While Lincoln County, as well as cities bookending it on the north and south, kept a June 1 date to lift a partial moratorium on lodging, the city councils of Waldport and Newport voted to allow tourist rentals beginning May 22 and 23, respectively.

During a joint meeting on Thursday, May 14, the county, Lincoln City and Yachats all concurred with an order that bans most bookings at hotels and vacation rentals until June 1, in keeping with an order passed during a previous joint session. Siletz concurred later in the day. Waldport and Newport will both open in time for Memorial Day, while Depoe Bay and Toledo did not vote and are both scheduled to discuss the issue during their next city council meetings.

Along with the passage of dates, the county and cities approved a set of regulations for when lodging facilities will be allowed to reopen. Absent are proposed restrictions that would have limited vacation rentals to a maximum of six guests and hotels to two guests per room, a provision that was lobbied against vigorously by a newly organized group of vacation rental owners. There are now no occupancy limits beyond those given in the lodging license.

Lodging establishments must submit a plan to their respective jurisdictions, detailing how they will follow the new guidelines. Hotels and motels will need to provide remote or curbside check-in options, or have a barrier, like a Plexiglas shield, at the check-in counter. Vacation rentals, homeshares, and bed and breakfasts require remote check-in, and campgrounds must offer remote check-in or an alternative similar to hotels.

Hotel employees will have to be screened with health questions and temperature checks, and they’ll have to wear masks when in public areas or around guests, as will vacation rental employees. Hotel pools and spas have to stay closed per statewide order, although vacation rental pools and hot tubs can be used, and hotel breakfasts must be “grab and go” in sealed containers or room service — no public space consumption is allowed.

Hotels and motels are to encourage guests to wear face coverings in public spaces, and masks are required for homeshares and bed and breakfast guests when in a shared space, where there can be no communal meals. Both categories are required to have signage to remind the public about distancing and other public health guidelines, and they’re also to remind guests of those practices prior to arrival.

After a guest checks out of a hotel or vacation rental, a 24-hour hold will be required before it can be cleaned and rented again. Such a gap period was requested by several housekeepers who submitted comments to the county for last week’s joint meeting. The regulations also list requirements for cleaning properties, which largely follow CDC guidance for the industry.

Joshua Conrad, general manager of the Best Western Agate Beach Inn in Newport, said most of the new guidelines, with the exception of the 24-hour hold, had already effectively been mandated at the corporate level. His hotel has remained open to essential workers, for which, he noted, the company had a stricter definition than the local resolution, and signage was already in place that he expected will satisfy the new guidelines. He said they’ll submit their plan to the city of Newport and be prepared to open May 23.

Jamie Michel is vice president of business development and operations for Sweet Homes Vacation Getaways, which operates more than 70 vacation rentals in the area. She helped organize disparate rental advocacy groups into the Vacation Industry Alliance, soon to be renamed Via Oregon. Michel said the group, which has mostly operated behind the scenes, now has 239 members and will soon take on a more public presence to “provide a strong voice going forward on behalf of rental owners.” In comments submitted to the county for last week’s joint meeting, the group included data from about 140 properties on potential losses if the six-person restriction were to be implemented. They argued the cap unduly discriminated against large, single-family dwellings and unfairly differentiated between hotels and vacation rentals.

While none made it into the order as passed, some officials did want additional limitations on vacation homes. During the May 14 meeting, County Commissioner Doug Hunt said he would prefer those rentals wait an additional three weeks after hotels to resume bookings, when the county would potentially enter phase three.

Michel said she’s relatively happy with the regulations in their final form, although the 24-hour gap between cleanings would be onerous were it to be in place for long. As it stands, it might remain in effect for just a few days. If the county enters phase two of the governor’s framework after 21 days in phase one, which began May 15, the 24-hour hold will no longer be required. Hotel pools, spas and other amenities would also be allowed to reopen June 5, while check-in and cleaning requirements would remain the same. (The full regulations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/y9z3kgxu).

Although all other lodging in Lincoln City doesn’t open until June 1, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians announced that Chinook Winds Casino Resort will reopen Thursday, May 21, with some modifications to operations. Smoking is will be prohibited property wide, and gaming and lodging capacity will be limited. The resort will conduct temperature checks on employees and guests using no-contact, infrared thermometers.

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