Pasco updating ordinance dealing with privacy of hotel registries

Have you ever stayed in a Pasco hotel and brought your own bottle of wine for a celebration or nightcap?

If so, then the manager may have been violating a Pasco Municipal Code for allowing guests to possess “any intoxicating liquor” in their baggage or room.

That soon will change.

Pasco is updating portions of an ordinance on “Hotels and Rooming Houses.”

The goal is to bring the city into compliance with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision dealing with hotel guest registries and privacy rights.

However, city staff have decided it is time to remove “subjective language and other questionable terminology” that is antiquated and potentially unenforceable.

Once the revised ordinance is approved by the city council at its Dec. 7 meeting, operators of hotels and lodging houses no longer can get in trouble for knowingly letting a bootlegger, vagrant or undesirable class stay in a room.

The update also removes references to people who engage in a game of chance, like a gambler, or who practice any immoral act or disorderly conduct.

The city is leaving in language about pimps, prostitutes and unlawful conduct.

The ordinance was intended to provide for the protection and safety of premises’ patrons and the public, and to help the Pasco Police Department apprehend violators or rid the city of people who “foster and encourage bad morals.”

Though the outdated language brought a few chuckles from council members at a recent meeting, City Attorney Leland Kerr said the primary change has to do with the registries hotels and rooming houses are required to maintain.

Historically, Pasco police or code enforcement officers could go into a hotel and ask for the log. But in June, a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that innkeepers may now challenge officers who want to spy on guests. The decision was on a city of Los Angeles case.

The justices, in protecting privacy rights, said it is unconstitutional for law enforcement to demand inspection of the guest records without the consent of the property’s owner/manager or in response to a subpoena, administrative order or search warrant.

That doesn’t mean hotels can stop collecting the detailed information at check-in, like names, addresses, the number of people in the party and the method of payment. Proprietors can face jail time if they fail to keep the records for 90 days.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer