BRANSON, Mo. — The City of Branson is launching a ‘Lodging Safety Initiative’ designed to ensure all lodging establishments operating within city limits are complying with required public health and safety standards. 

“Our top priority is to ensure the protection of public health, life, and safety for our guests and residents in Branson,” said Mayor Larry Milton. “This initiative is a positive step in reinforcing the credibility and legitimacy of our city’s business licensing and lodging program by creating an equal regulatory playing field for lodging establishments who actively choose to follow the law and provide healthy and safe accommodations. We are taking this critical step through this initiative to set the level of expectations in our City, especially in lodging establishments housing vulnerable populations in extended stay type living situations.”

The initiative is the result of a comprehensive review of the City’s adopted codes, along with input from various business and non-profit stakeholders, according to a press release from the city. It is intended to provide clear direction to City departments on the priority of public health and safety code compliance. 

“Every lodging facility has to receive a health permit once a year,” Director of the Taney County Health Department Lisa Marshall said. “Part of that is the inspection process. They need to pass the inspection to make sure that they have healthy and safe conditions per the state’s health lodging code.” 

The initiative implements a framework of enforcing existing codes and authority of the City in encouraging compliance with local ordinances regarding building structures, property maintenance, and fire code requirements that protect public health and safety. The initiative will address severe offenders operating establishments under non-compliant conditions with significant public health and/or life safety violations. 

“They need to be pest free, like things like the fire alarms need to work, things of that nature,” Marshall said. “We’re really looking to make sure that those hotels are in good repair, that there aren’t any like health hazards that somebody could get injured or hurt on.” 

Branson has recently identified several lodging establishments operating outside of the permitting/licensing process, according to the press release. 

“I can tell you that my officers respond to these properties more for all manner of calls than they do other properties,” Police Chief Eric Schmitt said. “It’s generally because the conditions are poor and the type of people that can, you know, become involved in it and can’t escape.” 

Schmitt said the goal is not to shut down properties, but to handle those that pose safety concerns with a three-strike rule. 

“Strike one is usually the verbal warning and us trying to educate you on what you need to do to get the property in line,” Schmitt said. “If that doesn’t occur, then the next step is a citation. That would be our strike two. If you’re just dragging your feet and not getting on board and it is continuing to be unsafe, that’s where we can go to the water shut off.” 

If the city does have to shut off water, there is a plan in place for residents. 

“We have a plan to relocate people through these outside agencies that will assist us and my hope is that maybe once that happens, like once or twice, the others will understand, oh [the] city [is] serious and we need to get on board with this,” Schmitt said. “If we can do this without shutting a single property down, that would be wonderful. That would be ideal for us.” 

The City of Branson code, fire and licensing inspection programs have been actively engaged in contacting all lodging establishments regarding required inspections for the 2024 lodging season, which begins November 1st.