Hotels push back on bill imposing new cleaning, staffing rules
A plan to write hotel sanitation guidelines into state law is advancing toward a vote in the Legislature this week, despite concerns from the lodging industry, which has its own plans centered around keyless entry and no-contact check-ins.
The coronavirus-inspired bill due for legislative approval this week requires housekeeping to clean every room daily and have at least one person – and more, if they have 200 rooms or more – at the front desk 24 hours a day. It also requires housekeeping to clean each room daily.
Marilou Halverson, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said the organization two weeks ago submitted ‘safe-stay’ plans including sanitation protocols that the state should adopt.
“Our plan goes more into depth, but it actually does what it’s supposed to do and eliminate contact and protects employees and guests that this plan does not,” Halverson said.
Halverson said some guests might not want housekeeping to enter their rooms each day and should be able to request linens and towels if they prefer. And she said with social distancing goals you don’t want workers close to each other at a front desk, especially when it’s not needed in the middle of the night.
Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, said if the industry’s experts have a plan, the state should pay attention to that.
“To mandate a certain level of staffing at the front desk overnight, it just seems not well thought out and excessive,” Bergen said.
Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, R-Cape May, said hospitality businesses shouldn’t be required to hire more staff at a time like this, which could be required by proposed rules for front-desk staffing.
“We want to practice social distancing and give the family an opportunity to decide if they want their rooms cleaned or not,” McClellan said. “And if they can get clean towels every day, then that should be their option and their choice and allow that to happen without having somebody go into their room on a daily basis.”
Assemblyman Kevin Rooney, R-Passaic, said he supports the concept, on balance, but that the hospitality industry raises valid concerns.
“We should look to allowing these types of businesses to reopen with safety in mind but more importantly, we need to get the economy open and this is just one element of it,” Rooney said.
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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.