Nearly a year into the pandemic, COVID-19 has left no business or industry untouched.
The village’s Sleep Inn hotel has been hit particularly hard.
Sleep Inn has experienced significant financial losses as a result of the pandemic, and is considering a closure until occupancy rates rebound, hotel staff told the Village Board at its Monday, Nov. 16, meeting.
To help offset the Sleep Inn’s financial burden, trustees agreed to suspend its room tax payments for until June 2021.
Municipalities like the Village of Oregon typically levy room taxes on each night’s stay in a hotel, at least 70% of which must go to the designated local tourism entity.
Since March, Sleep Inn has seen a budgetary shortfall of around $696,000, according to an email sent to village administrator Mike Gracz. Village staff directed attorney Matt Dregne to draft an ordinance reflecting that suspension Monday, Nov. 16, with the expectation they will approve it at their next meeting.
Dan Egan, SL&L Hospitality vice president of finance, appeared on the board’s Zoom conference Monday to request the room tax suspension and to allow the hotel to use previously paid room taxes for advertising campaigns on Facebook and discount travel websites.
But trustees determined that if Sleep Inn would like to obtain funds from the pool of previously paid taxes, it should take that request up with the Tourism Commission.
Sleep Inn collected nearly $11,700 in room taxes in the third quarter, Egan’s email to the village said, and he estimated it will take in around $9,500 in the fourth.
Gracz told the Observer on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the commission is expected to set up a meeting with hotel staff to see how members can satisfy that inquiry.
Trustee Amanda Peteson advised that she thought the ads shouldn’t call for hotel occupants with COVID-19 cases increasing, but instead for gift certificates customers can redeem after the pandemic levels off.
“I have concerns about advertising that might encourage people to travel during a pandemic,” she said.
But Peterson, like others on the board, said “we should do what we can” to keep Sleep Inn afloat.
Trustees had pushed for several years to find a hotel developer and then provided $800,000 in tax-increment financing in 2018 to encourage it.
“We fought long and hard to get a hotel here,” Peterson said.