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When can visitors return to Oregon beach towns? Coastal leaders discuss reopening lodging

Two separate city council meetings in Lincoln County, included discussion on when and how to reopen parts of the Oregon coast, particularly lodging.

Two separate city council meetings in Lincoln County Monday, included discussion on when and how to reopen parts of the Oregon coast, particularly lodging.

In Lincoln City, city council members heard public testimony including grievances from business owners.

“I know most of these people have dumped everything they have into these businesses to support this county, this community,” said Chris Donner, who owns Game Over Arcade in Lincoln City. The arcade’s building doubles as the Donner family’s home. He testified that the risk of losing all of it grows, the longer restrictions keep his business’ doors closed.

“Spring break… we didn't get that this year and it's going to be a miracle if we make it through this next winter,” said Donner.

It was around Spring Break that city leaders in Clatsop, Tillimook and Lincoln counties together decided to require all hotels, motels and rentals to close, to discourage tourists from visiting the coast. That decision was separate from the state's COVID-19 restrictions, which banned all non-essential travel. Now as the state looks toward reallowing leisure travel, coastal cities are considering when to loosen their own self-imposed lodging restrictions. In Newport, city council members on Monday discussed a draft that would call to reopen coastal lodging May 31.

“There's no money available to pay rent,” said Newport City Councilor Beatriz Botello, referring to hotel employees who depend on lodging jobs.

Another point of discussion called for new lodging restrictions to look less at the number of people allowed to stay in rentals and more at whether occupants are families or people who were living together during quarantine. Though the state has never ordered hotels to close, a May 31 opening date would likely come before the state phases back in non-essential travel.

“There certainly is fear,” said Newport City Councilor Cynthia Jacobi. “Sometimes it is unreasonable but sometimes prudent.”

Back in Lincoln City, arcade owner Chris Donner shared that he’d always taken exception to rules ordering what businesses could stay open or closed during COVID-19 restrictions, rather than letting people decide.

“Friday was the first time I went to Safeway,” said Donner. “It was impossible to social distance in that store and it disgusted me to know that that is okay but yet I can't open my doors.”

Coastal city leaders will take the input they received from council members and the public and discuss it at a joint meeting scheduled for Thursday. Some coastal counties have submitted proposals to start during Phase 1 of reopening. 

According to the Daily Astorian, Clatsop County, which includes Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach, don't want to re-open lodging and invite visitors to return until at least Phase 2 which would be the second week in June at the earliest.

RELATED: More than 30 Oregon counties apply for first phase of reopening

RELATED: Understanding Gov. Kate Brown's new plan to restart public life in Oregon

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