Ocean Shores hotels reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. -- As of Tuesday (May 19), hotels along a popular stretch of our state's beaches will reopen after being closed for nearly two months.

Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler closed the hotels in March, but now she says they can reopen to bring much-needed money into the tourism economy.

Other businesses in town are also cautiously optimistic, though not everyone agrees that it's the right move.

While places like King County have been hammered by the virus, many coastal communities have been spared. Grays Harbor County has seen only 15 confirmed cases since March. Now the hope is that tourists won't bring the virus to the beach.

Jim Edwards, who moved his life and family from Metro Seattle to Ocean Shores to open Pirate's Cove Pub, says business is down 85 percent since the shutdown. But he recognizes that Covid is still a real threat.

"One of the biggest places people come from is King County. That's kind of scary," Edwards says.

Mayor Dingler says the city has already laid off employees: tax revenues have dropped $100,000 a month.

"People have put their life savings or their retirement or whatever into a business and they - this is just so unexpected," she says. "We have hotels within walking distance of the city that are not closed. We are pleased to get our hotels get back online and running because they really have taken the brunt."

Hotels like Canterbury Inn are ready to open. But it won't be the vacation tourists are accustomed to. Grills, the community pool and other amenities will remain closed.

Managers are taking steps to keep surfaces clean and will restrict capacity.

Without a place to stay, tourists can't support other businesses in town.

"If the city doesn't have any tourism, then we're out of business," says Chuck Warden, owner of Honey Pearl Ranch.

Warder has been scrambling to get his horses ready to go. He says he recognizes the risk, but he worries not reopening could be worse.

"You can't keep your head in the sand forever," he says.

Local Brian Ferguson took his dog to the beach after Ocean Shores reopened vehicle access. But he worries opening the hotels might persuade tourists from sticking to the governor's orders.

Some locals claim a handful of stores never fully closed despite the order. They worry coronavirus is still a serious threat. But many others say blocks of shuttered businesses is also not the solution. Without major public assistance, tourists will have to fill the gap.

Grays Harbor County is one of 22 counties that the governor says is eligible to apply for Phase 2 reopening. Read more here.