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Seaside lifts lodging restrictions

Guests welcome after Memorial Day

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Seaside will lift restrictions on lodging.

SEASIDE — Following the lead of Cannon Beach, Seaside will rescind restrictions on hotels and short-term rentals after Memorial Day.

“I feel that our hoteliers and vacation rental groups have really worked hard to self-regulate and prepare themselves for opening,” Mayor Jay Barber said. “This is a difficult decision to balance community health and economic health. My concern is for both. But ultimately I’m concerned if we don’t time the opening of the economic engines in our community, we’re not going to have much left as a tourist community.”

The discussion to remove restrictions in place since the city’s March 22 emergency declaration over the coronavirus came one week after city councilors approved reopening the city’s beaches, waterways and parks. At that meeting, an amendment to reopen lodging fell short of approval. Councilors felt that a premature opening of hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds could create a backlash among local residents.

Seaside lodging owners returned Wednesday to seek immediate reopening.

“It’s retail and restaurants that are dying here,” Mark Tolan, of Seaside Vacation Homes, said. “We will lose our economy if we don’t take action.”

Terrance Bichsel, chairman of the board of Best Western Hotels and Resorts and owner of Best Western Plus Ocean View Resort and Rivertides Suites Hotel, said the lodging community has been unfairly targeted by the economic downturn. “Our industry on the lodging side is in real trouble. We are asking you to please let us reopen, tomorrow,” he said.

Bichsel estimated a potential for a 25% to 30% occupancy rate if the city opened for Memorial Day. “Occupancy would be minuscule at best,” he said.

Even with an immediate opening, lodging owners said it would take time to get to 100% occupancy.

Lodging creates opportunities for restaurants, Seaside Chamber of Commerce CEO Brian Owen added. “It’s really, at this point, a must,” he said.

Frank Erickson, a retired radiologist, opposed the reopening and said he favored “strict coordination with county and state rules.”

Reopening would bring a spike in COVID-19 cases, Erickson said. “That’s the virology of it. I wish it were different. It only takes one person to spread these things and your strong efforts are only as good as your weakest employee,” he said. “This virus is just looking for new lungs. And it will find them.”

The City Council voted down a proposal for an immediate opening, opting for a compromise measure.

Councilor Seth Morrisey said he sought a balanced approach that takes into account both residents and interests of the business community at large. “Working in conjunction with our neighbor Cannon Beach is the best solution to opening safely,” he said. “I’m in favor of removing restrictions on overnight lodging on May 26.”

A Tuesday opening gives the lodging industry the opportunity to hire back staff and restart operations as the county moves toward a phase two reopening process on June 5, he added.

The city voted 5-1 to remove restrictions on lodging, hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds beginning at 6 a.m. on Tuesday

Barber and councilors Morrisey, Randy Frank, Tita Montero and Steve Wright voted in favor of the resolution. Councilor Tom Horning voted against the plan, advocating the city adhere to county and state guidelines on lifting lodging restrictions rather than acting on its own. Councilor Dana Phillips was absent.

“This is a decision that about half of the people are going to be very happy about,” Barber said after the vote. “The other half are going to be unhappy. I think this is a good decision based on what the lodging people have requested. It doesn’t fully implement their request, but it’s very close.”

R.J. Marx is editor of the Seaside Signal and covers South County for The Astorian. Reach him at 971-320-4557 or rmarx@seasidesignal.com.

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