Nick Jacquet’s Tofino Travellers Guesthouse is back in business.
The accommodation was shut down by Tofino’s district office after an Aug. 22 public hearing determined Jacquet was operating above the six-guest limit his licence allowed for.
During the hearing, Tofino’s municipal council heard from their staff that Jacquet was hosting as many as 22 guests at one time and was also operating over the three-room-maximum stipulated in his licence. Jacquet admitted to running above his guest and room limits, but argued the guesthouse had operated over both those limits for at least 25 years and should have been grandfathered in as a hostel-type accommodation.
Tofino’s council didn’t buy that argument and revoked Jacquet’s business licence.
Jacquet told the Westerly News that he has received a 2017 licence and plans to operate within its restraints, though he expressed frustration at having to nix the bunk-room he had used to offer single travellers a place to sleep for $20 a night.
“I’m definitely going to conform with it. I can easily do that. I just think everybody loses,” he said. “In the big picture, everybody loses because I can’t take single travellers anymore in a bunk-bed scenario. I had to rip out the whole room.”
He said he’s been running the guesthouse for the past eight years and has enjoyed providing opportunities for tourists traveling alone to mingle with each other by hosting communal events like weekly crab nights, but he will limit his clientele to groups from now on to best manage his guest limit.
“We did all these thing to get people connected and, now, we won’t be doing that because we’ve got six people,” he said. “The whole energy of this place changes. It’s now couples only and they have different needs and different demands.”
He said Tofino is running out of affordable accommodations, like his $20 bunk-room, that help bring diversity to Tofino’s tourism sector by offering lower income visitors the chance to experience adventures like whale watching and surf lessons, without blowing their vacation budget on shelter.
“Guests lose out. Tofino loses out, and it just starts getting more and more of a bad rap for being a place where it’s unaffordable,” he said. “We’re losing affordability. People can’t afford to live here, stay here, visit here.”
He added he did not feel well supported by the district, despite his belief that his low-cost accommodation brought benefits to Tofino.
“They dictate. They really have a strong belief of what Tofino should look like and, I think, it’s not really necessarily a great view,” he said. “This place is going to change drastically and, sadly enough, it’s not going to be for the better.”
Jacquet’s 2016 license could have been reactivated as early as October 22 but, he said, he received little communication from the district until 2017’s business license renewals came around.
He suggested Tofino should be focused on solving, what he believes are, more serious problems, rather than cracking down on the low-cost commercial sector.
“We still have the same sewage problem. We still have the same water problem. We still have the same parking problem,” he said. “There’s bigger shows here in Tofino to spend your time, but they’re so focused on this b and b stuff. It’s just really disappointing, because a lot of the people here in Tofino really derive their sole income from this.”
Speaking to the Westerly News last week, Tofino’s Chief Administrative Officer Bob MacPherson confirmed the guesthouse was issued a business licence for 2017 and has a clean slate to work with.
“January 1 is a reset,” MacPherson said. “With any business, if there have been challenges of compliance, the licencing officer is going to look at those compliance issues before issuing a business licence.”
He said the district does not intend to pay closer attention to Jacquet’s guesthouse than any other accommodation provider in Tofino and he believes Jacquet will operate within the six-guests, three-rooms, constraints of the licence.
“There’s a business licence that has been applied for. There is a business licence that has been granted. We’re taking that on face value that that’s what’s going to be occurring there,” he said.
He disagreed with Jacquet’s assessment that the district was tough to communicate with and said Aug. 22’s hearing, and subsequent business licence suspension, was a last resort after various attempts to communicate with Jacquet had failed.
“What we want is compliance. Suspending a licence is one of the final steps in trying to get compliance,” he said. “We made requests, we wrote letters, we asked to inspect the premises, and that wasn’t getting us anywhere. The process of recommending the licence be suspended was so we could get compliance with our bylaws.”
He said the district heard Jacquet’s arguments that the guesthouse property had operated over capacity for at least 25 years, but said no substantial evidence was ever found to support this claim.
“It hasn’t been proven,” he said. “There’s been nothing to back that up. If there were some information of a continuous use, then we’d look at it.”