Business leaders want Seaside reopened, with a “soft opening” of local beaches to begin Monday and full opening May 18. They delivered a nine-page proposal to the city’s reopening committee in advance of a City Council hearing on Monday.
“The lodging community is ready to reopen,” Terrance J. 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. “We have protective measures in place for our employees as well as our guests. I hope the council will feel comfort and trust us that our interests are all aligned in this regard.”
According to the plan, hotels, motels and vacation rental dwellings could start taking reservations with a maximum of 50% of available rooms rentable. On May 18, transient lodging and VRDs would be able to book at 100%.
The nine-page draft plan, developed by business leaders and presented Wednesday by Mark Tolan of Seaside Vacation Homes, comes amidst a “dire situation” as a result of the pandemic.
The plan provides guidance for reopening of restaurants, retailers, public parks, the beach and restrooms in a responsible manner.
“The middle class is going to lose their houses,” Tolan said. “They’re going to go bankrupt. We cannot wait days, if hours longer.”
Tolan said businesses are ready to open “at a moment’s notice.”
“We don’t expect for government to be tasked with the idea of evaluating every single one of our niche business models, but rather that we self-govern ourselves and look at overall points of accountability,” Tolan said.
Director of Tourism Marketing Joshua Heineman injected a note of caution at Wednesday’s Reopening Task Force Ad Hoc Committee, which included participation from county public health director Michael McNickle and Providence Seaside Hospital Chief Executive Don Lemmon.
“What I heard from county public health that there are tools being put in place now where we can get a better baseline,” Heineman said. “I think it’s important to get the blessing from public health, because there is a segment of the population here in Seaside who is frightened,” Heineman said. “Data like the fact nobody’s been hospitalized won’t matter that much when they’re scared and they see a lot of daytrippers here.”
Rebecca Read, a Seaside resident and member of the county’s public safety coordinating council, said it may be irresponsible to reopen the city’s hotels, restaurants and beaches too soon.
“I am not sure the people who visit will act responsibly also,” Read said. “There’s little we can do to monitor physical distancing and safe practices. To say you’re ready to go — I’m not sure about that.”