By Debra Moore
Lodging providers across Plumas County have opened their doors — or are planning to soon — since local officials gave them the green light late last week.
A letter went out to lodging providers Friday, May 22, notifying them that they could resume operation immediately, but with the caveat that they rent only to those who are “close to home.”
The letter, addressed to Plumas County lodging providers, reads: “Thank you for complying with varying State and County requirements throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic. We know this has not been an easy time for you. We want to let you know that lodging providers may now serve those who are recreating close to home under the recent State Health officer’s Order. While the Order does not define what constitutes ‘close to home,’ the Order does state that people should not travel significant distances to recreate. We are asking businesses to use good judgment and discretion when serving close to home guests.”
When asked for clarification this week, Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe said that he and other officials are interpreting that to mean those who live within an hour. “It doesn’t mean people from the Bay Area or those who would need to get on a plane to get here,” Sipe said. However, Sipe acknowledged that would be extremely difficult to monitor. At least one lodging provider was told “close to home” meant “in the region.”
Many of the county’s lodging providers cater to out-of-town visitors who make their reservations a year in advance. Sipe said it would be up to the providers to monitor the origins of their guests. He said the decision to allow lodging providers to reopen was prompted by the state order, as well as the fact that campgrounds and RV parks were already operational.
The county has templates available on its website to provide guidance for lodging providers or they can develop their own plans as long as they meet sanitation, social distancing and and other safety criteria.
Last Friday’s announcement left some lodging providers scrambling to get ready to open, while others immediately booked up for the Memorial Day weekend.
Filip Laboda, owner of the Bidwell House in Chester, fell into the latter group. “We let people know and we filled up,” he said. However the rest of the summer isn’t as promising for the business — at least not yet. “Typically we have a lot of travelers who want to visit Lassen Park that come from all over the United States and even internationally,” he said. But that type of travel is discouraged, and Lassen Park only recently reopened.
Wedding cancellations have also impacted the Bidwell House, where one had been scheduled nearly every weekend filling up the bed and breakfast. Still Laboda is optimistic that people will elect to vacation closer to home and he can recoup some of those lost bookings.
Across the county at Camp Layman, Dan McDonald and his wife, Shelly, are getting their cabins ready for a June 1 reopening. “It came as a surprise when we were notified on Friday,” he said.
Thus far the camp has lost about seven weeks of business, but is booked for the summer. “July is as full as it’s ever been,” Dan said. And some of the people who were unable to visit during the shutdown have booked for later this season, causing the couple to think about staying open later into the fall.
The popular resort, which features a number of cabins near Graeagle, is making some changes to protect guests and staff . For example the popular evening campfire, which brings a lot of guests together, will be limited to one family at a time. Board games will be shelved, as will the basketball hoop, volleyball and fishing poles, while the camp will still offer shuffleboard, horseshoes and ping pong — sanitized between uses.
Camp Layman is notifying all of its guests of the changes so that they can come prepared. Dan said that he doesn’t think anyone will be upset. “They are just so happy to be able to come here,” he said.
Some lodging providers have remained open throughout the state’s stay-at-home order because they catered to essential and/or long-term workers — such as many of the motels in Quincy. Now those entities will be able to expand their customer base and rent to vacationers as well.