Yachats City Council OKs business loan program

A sign at the Yachats Commons echoes Gov. Kate Brown’s order to “Stay Home Save Lives.” Yachats allocated $100,000 to fund low-interest loans to local businesses. (Photo by Cheri Brubaker)

YACHATS — The Yachats City Council declined to refund food and beverage tax to restaurants as was proposed at its emergency meeting last month, however, the council voted unanimously to fund an emergency business loan program.

The city will provide $100,000 to be offered as loans to businesses at 2 percent interest. The program will be administered by Community LendingWorks at a cost of $4,000.

In a proposal to the Yachats City Council, titled Save Our Restaurants, Bob Barrett, Linda Hetzler, Michelle Korgan, Tom Lauritzen and Greg Scott stated, “With the closure of most businesses, owners have little or no income to pay for rent/mortgages, utilities, legal and accounting services and other expenses. The problem is a lack of cash. Recent news has created a perception that small business loans and grants are available. Recent experiences of local small business owners tell a very different story.”

Calling the issue “time sensitive,” the proposal suggested, “If four or five tax-collecting businesses fail, this is going to adversely impact future city tax collections. Small businesses need an infusion of cash and not additional debt.” The proposal asked the city to refund a portion of food and beverage tax collected.

A memo from City Manager Shannon Beaucaire to city council members included comments by local restaurant owners illustrating their situations. Deborah Gisetto, owner of the Green Salmon, Hetzler of Drift Inn and Korgan of Ona detailed the grim outlook their businesses face after the loss of the crowds usually accompanying spring break and facing an uncertain summer season.

Yachats Community Presbyterian Church Pastor Bob Barrett indicated local business owners have expressed to him a very real fear they may never reopen. 

“These small businesses, particularly our restaurants, are very much the heart and soul of Yachats and one of the reasons tourists come to spend their money here. We cannot afford to lose even one of them. They are our biggest employers. Displaced workers need a job to come back to,” Barrett wrote in the proposal. “Perhaps more importantly, Yachats needs the tax revenue generated by these businesses to pay for our water and sewer infrastructure.”

Also presented to the Yachats City Council was the Yachats Small Business Relief Effort from Just Local, Judith’s Kitchen Tools, Yachats Cannabis Company, Green Salmon, Beach Street Kitchen, Books & More, Antique Virgin, Ya Tel Motel, Yachats Brewing, KOHO, Toad Hall, Bob Barrett, Tom Lauritzen and Greg Scott, which suggested supporting the needs of city businesses with the city’s Visitor Amenities Fund. 

That memo stated, “While businesses like gift shops, book stores and restaurants are not generally considered a visitor amenity, their continued presence is important to the people that come to Yachats.”

Before the vote of the city council, Mayor John Moore said, “We know all of our businesses are going to need some help,” adding the issue before the council was to decide how to help and how much help to offer.

Several Yachats residents wrote letters in support of the city helping its businesses. At least one person cautioned the council, advising against refunding the food and beverage tax.

Beaucaire recommended the council approve the loan program. She wrote in a memo, “Unfortunately, as an economic stabilization source, the food and beverage tax and transient lodging tax are not viable sources.”

The Yachats Community Presbyterian Church continues to disburse money through the Displaced Worker Fund. When the city of Yachats offered to match purchases of $25 in local businesses with a donation to that fund, the community submitted $25,800 in receipts, of which the city matched $5,000.

“The Yachats community is absolutely stunning in its response,” Beaucaire said of the support residents showed local businesses since Gov. Kate Brown implemented restrictions in response to the novel coronavirus. “Many communities are putting together funds to help their  businesses. When you think of the per-capita impact, it’s significant in Yachats, making Yachats truly unique.”

Barrett wrote in a social media post on May 13 the church “raised over $185,000 for displaced workers, business relief, food pantry and other miscellaneous needed assistance. We have so far disbursed $114,965.”

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