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$7,500 in room taxes goes back to local hotels, motel

With the owner of Abbotsford’s three lodging establishments reporting a 50 percent drop in business since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s room tax commission decided Monday to help him cover his advertising expenses over the past several months.

The commission approved a total of about $7,500 in room tax grants to the Rodeway Inn ($4,647), Abby Inn ($1,928) and Home Motel ($909) based on applications submitted by Krunal Patel, owner of all three establishments.

Patel also provided a spreadsheet of the money he has spent for promoting each of his establishments on websites such as Expedia and Booking. com, along with the $80 monthly cost of renting a billboard on STH 29.

As a member of the commission, Patel recused himself from voting on all of the grant applications.

Commission chairman Eric Reis said he didn’t think the commission could reimburse his advertising costs going back to January, as requested in his applications, but the commission said the money could be used to cover those costs starting in March and going forward.

When asked how much business his two hotels and one motel had lost since March, Patel said “at least 50 percent.”

“Most of this money will be used in percentage- based advertisement where money will be spent only if it will generate a hotel night stay,” he wrote in his application.

After adding room tax collections from the first half of 2020, the commission had about $21,900 in its account before Monday’s meeting. Of that amount, though, a little under $10,700 was considered part of the commission’s “restricted” reserve fund.

That left the commission with about $11,200 to spend. The Abby-Colby Crossings Chamber of Commerce had originally requested a total of $5,000 to help pay the chamber director’s wages for the first two quarters of 2020, but one of those $2,500 requests was tabled until the room tax account had more money.

No action was taken on a request for $672 in reimbursement for Cheese Days, which did incur some advertising costs before it was cancelled this year. No one representing the event was there to answer the questions, which is required for the commission to approve requests.

At the commission’s last meeting on May 18, commissioners agreed to pay $1,083 to the organizers of Abby Festival, which was also cancelled, in order to help them cover costs they had already accrued for promoting the event.

On Monday, commissioners talked about changing the room tax application form to account for events that don’t end up happening for various reasons.

Commission president Eric Reis said he wants to accommodate unforeseen events, like COVID-19 or natural disasters, but he doesn’t think the room tax commission should have to pay for promoting events that don’t happen due to poor planning or lack of participation.

“It’s hard to support something that just doesn’t get off the ground,” he said.

Reis said he would write some proposed language to be added to the application, which will be voted on at the commission’s next meeting on Nov. 16.