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February 27, 2013

Another View: New bill would crush B&Bs with excessive regulation

By Robert Shaffer, who owns Trebor Mansion Inn in Guilford

On Feb. 6, I commented on Greg Kesich's column in favor of rooming houses ("Old-style boardinghouses would fill a contemporary need") – a perfect solution to short-term housing in places like Portland and Brunswick. My comment pointed out that while Portland might have favorable regulations regarding boardinghouses, it might run afoul of the state regulations on lodging houses with more than five rooms, and even those could not serve food to their guests.

Six days later, the Legislature responded with L.D. 330, "An Act to Require that All Lodging Places to be Licensed by the State." This bill removes the exemptions from state licensing of lodging places, private homes and inns, requiring them all to be licensed by the state, and repeals the authority of a municipality to license lodging houses, since it will now be done by the state.

Maine has the highest per capita number of B&Bs in the nation, and once only narrowly trailed megastate California in absolute number of B&Bs. But the number of B&Bs has declined dramatically since the state adopted new and very expensive regulatory mandates, and this legislation will accelerate the decline. All those private homes along the coast that put out a shingle for their extra bedroom as a tourist room would be gone. This will close hundreds of quintessentially Maine small businesses.

Almost all of the inns now operating and licensed in Maine were grandfathered under the old regulations, and as the owners retire, the licenses lapse, and they cannot be re-opened as lodging houses without spending $30,000 and up. Since most small lodging grosses less than $30,000 a year, it is financially impossible to meet the current regulations.

Please come to the public hearing in Augusta on Wednesday and speak out for the preservation of these historic small businesses.





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