Many of the hotels and other commercial lodging establishments in Ocean Shores that have been closed since March 27 are now preparing to open on Tuesday, just in time for Memorial weekend. But this year, uncertainty abounds with the approach of the normally sold-out holiday weekend that traditionally kicks off summer at the beach.
Mayor Crystal Dingler issued executive orders for both the closure and reopening, both of which were ultimately approved by the City Council. On May 5, she sent hotel operators a three-page list of recommendations to help them prepare to reopen.
Those contacted generally said they are embarking on substantially new and different ways of operating almost all aspects of their businesses and there is much to learn. Many had not yet started taking reservations, which left them uncertain about what to expect next weekend.
Taylor Priest, who will be returning to the front desk of the Ocean Shores Inn & Suites, said the emphasis is on being ready to reopen, “but doing it safely, because if not, everything will close back up again.” He described the hotel’s management as “totally on board with safety for us and our guests, keeping staff informed and doing our best to inform guests … using good judgment and adapting.”
The Canterbury Inn used their Facebook page to publish a nearly 600-word, bullet-pointed set of information and instructions for guests. Among their adaptations are limited occupancy, a new check-in process “to limit interaction and paperwork at the Front Desk,” closures including the pool (per the state health department), fitness center, BBQ area, guest computer station, and complimentary coffee area, and the advisory, “When in the common areas we ask that if you are comfortable with wearing a mask that you do so. You will see our staff in masks.”
Along with the business phone number, the post concludes with, “We understand this is a lot to take in; it is for us as well. We hope that you sincerely understand that these new procedures are to make sure that we can protect our staff, community, and guests to the best of our ability.”
The Westerly Motel, owned and operated for 47 years by Jeanne Cox, will also reopen in time for the holiday weekend. Asked if she thinks her small business will survive the economic chaos of the pandemic, Cox energetically replied, “Oh, yeah! The phone is ringing off the hook! I’ve got regular people waiting for me to call.”
Lifting the hotel closure follows the reopenings Tuesday of the drive-on beach access approaches in Ocean Shores and Thursday of all the county’s approaches.
Dingler said of the hotel operators, “They’re very excited. Not all are going to open Tuesday, but they now have the choice.” She noted that “in some cases, they’ve gone to very extraordinary ends to be as safe as possible … a great job.”
The mayor said the hotels and businesses are not alone in facing new challenges. “Part of what we all have to do is learn how to operate with COVID still going on.”