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New Stay At Home Order Hits Central, South Coast Motels And Hotels With Leisure Travel Banned

The stay at home order impacting the Central and South Coasts has taking away on-site dining service at restaurants, closed hair salons, nail salons, and barbershops, and reduce retail store capacity to 20% But, one of the parts of the order which is mostly overlooked has to do with travel, and motel and hotel stays.

It’s similar to an order during one of the coronavirus surges which said motel, and hotels could only offer rooms to people involved in essential projects. Tom Patton is General Manager and Partner at the Ramada Santa Barbara.  He says how the new order works was initially very confusing, because it doesn't apply to the entire state, but to counties impacted by stay at home orders.  He says it's has been clarified, but it’s still complex.

We’re now in the off season for Central and South Coast hotels, but the situation is cutting into the limited tourism we normally see this time of year. The situation has also brought back a quandary for motels and hotels. The order says rooms have to be for essential businesses only, like medical personnel, or utility crews. But, who enforces that?

Tara Zanecki worked as a front desk supervisor at a Santa Barbara motel until she was laid off because of the downturn in customers. She says the order is unenforceable. Zanecki says during the first version of the order earlier this year, people initially complied. But, over time they began so see more people who were clearly leisure travelers.

So, what happens if you try to make a reservation? If you go to one of the major third-party hotel reservation sites which are commonly used, a banner comes up which says “California may have travel restrictions in place.” You can simply ignore it. Or, you can click on it, and it will take you to the state’s page which says lodging is only available for essential travel, or to protect the homeless population.

But again, there’s no mechanism to enforce it. Motels and hotels aren’t the travel police. Operators are certainly torn on the issue, because they want to cooperate. At the same time, they say COVID-19 spread hasn’t been linked to motels and hotels, and they want to keep their doors open, and their employees working.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.