Today in the SJ Update mailbag, we have this letter from Lydia Miller…
I want to commend Dr Frank James, the Board of Health and County Council, for making the prudent responsible decision to finally allow lodging to reopen.
Given that Americans are cautiously emerging from social distancing measures, the fear of crowds descending on the Islands is unfounded. Those of us in the hospitality business will be lucky if we scrape by with 25% occupancy rates this summer.
Our local healthcare system is resilient and has handled positive cases as they have arisen. We have a system in place to test and refer patients for treatment as needed.
The last three months have shown us that some high traffic businesses were allowed to remain open and they have operated safety without endangering their employees and customers.
As businesses reopen, they will be required to follow rigorous state mandated safety requirements. Those who are at higher risk can and should continue to stay at home and limit their exposure. However, those of us that are at lower risk need to be able return to our lives, and the longer we wait, the more drastic the permanent scar to our islands will be. Many of our lovely Inns, cafes, restaurants and shops will never reopen and will be replaced by boarded up windows. Some businesses cannot weather three months without a penny of income.
As employers, tax payers and island residents, the health of our community greatly depends on the survival of small businesses. As business owners we provide meaningful work, fair wages, health benefits, and retirement plans, all of which contribute to the collective health and safety of our community. The lodging moratorium has been devastating to hospitality industry and many other businesses on the island.
Lodging tax has provided millions of dollars to fund county parks, community theater, cultural events, museums, community outreach, maintaining public restrooms, supporting public transportation, non profits that work towards protecting marine and wildlife, and seed money to new businesses… all of which create the rich, diverse life we enjoy and the safety net many of us depend on. A fraction of the previous budget will be there next year.
As business owners with deep roots in the San Juan Islands, no one cares more about the health and well being of our community.