BAR HARBOR — “I can see where lodging (businesses) obeying the rules would be maddened by people who are not,” Town Councilor JillGoldthwait said at Tuesday’s councilmeeting, “but I’m also aware that there are a lot of accusations flying around based on incomplete information.”
Most of the local hotels that are open in the winter closed in March or April when the town, and then the state, restricted lodging to essential travel, such as workers in construction or health care, or people caring for family members.
The Inn on Mount Desert, of which Councilor Stephen Coston is one of the owners, has been investigated by both the Bar Harbor Police Department and state health inspectors when they received complaintsof alleged violations of the lodging restrictions.
Some called for the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, on which he also serves, to consider action against Coston for the alleged violations. “It is not only disrespectful to the community as a whole, but (it) is an incredible insult to all the businesses in town that have adhered to the recent rules and recommendations,” one anonymous letter to Chamber leaders said.
“It looks a lot different from the inside looking out,” Coston told the Islander this week. “Everyone who has checked into the inn has signed a document stating that they understand and are compliant with the rules.” The text of that document changed June 1 when the state moved to a new set of rules in Phase 2 of the reopening plan.
“We did have one case over Memorial Day weekend where we found out that somebody had lied to us,” on the document they signed, he said.
The inn’s managers consulted with police, who said they should ask the guest to leave the following day. They were scheduled to leave the following day anyway.
“Although we were not mandated to close our business, closing it down absolutely would’ve been the easiest thing for us to do, but we stayed open to help people who need a place to stay in Bar Harbor,” Coston said. “Based on the number and type of people we’vehelped, we continue to feel strongly that we absolutely made the right decision.”
Vacation rental owners have also been accused of violations.
“I’ve talked with several other vacation renters who have been told, when declining guests due to the current lodging rules, that, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll find someone else who will rent to us,’” resident Earl Brechlin, who operates a weekly rental, wrote to councilors. “Like many area residents, we have canceled everything in May, June and July, and will cancel the rest ifneeded when the time comes.”
Police Chief Jim Willis said there were a few rentals early in the pandemic emergency where people had to leave, but for the most part, the rules have been followed.
“Now that more businesses, including other lodging businesses, are opening up around town,” Coston said, “we hope that more people will recognize that it’s not fair to ask businesses to play ‘law enforcement’ when businesses have no such authority. No one elected me or any of us businesspeople sheriff, and I don’t think anyone would want to.”