BRANSON, Mo. – The City of Branson posted a notice on the front door of the Oak Grove and American Family Patriot Inn stating the owner did not have the proper business license. The notice is strike one in the new Lodging Safety Initiative aimed at keeping properties safe for tenants.

“We want to basically put people on notice if they’re not meeting our expectations,” Branson Police Chief Eric Schmitt said. “This is our first notice to you. It’s a courtesy notice. Get back to us with what you what your plans are for the establishment.”

Police said before the Lodging Safety Initiative went into effect in September, property owners were using a loophole by stalling after getting a citation, which is how some properties fell into disrepair with repercussions.

“The vast majority of our operators are doing exactly what they should,” Schmitt said. “They’re following the rules. We have a very small number that are not, and they have taken advantage of the gaps in the system. Quite honestly, one of the places was in the length of time it took to get from the issuance of a citation to a resolution. So the city looked at its codes and that’s how this system came about.”

The first strike is a courtesy notice, the second a formal, and the third is shutting down the property.

“There is a group in town ready to go that we can summon and give them a heads up, [saying] ‘Hey we may have a closure coming down the pike, and let’s help get these people a nice, safe place to stay if where they currently live is shut down,'” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said he is not aware of any properties requiring an immediate shutdown. But a tenant at Oak Grove Inn said her living situation has already gone too far.

“We found out there was no Internet or cable,” Anita Williams said. “Everybody’s gone [and] they just left all the trash. There’s a homeless people come in every night. They know no one’s here, they just break the locks and go on in.”

Williams and her family checked into the Oak Grove Inn on October 21 and paid to stay until November 3.

“The only thing that I have back here that the city considers legal for us to stay here is because we still have water and electricity,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, what you’re doing is you’re bleeding your locals out for no reason. We get stuck into situations like this so that all the money that we made in the summer has gone for messes like this until we can figure out and navigate in the community where a safe place is to live.”

Ozarksfirst reached out to the City of Branson to see how many properties have received a courtesy notice since the start of the initiative. We are waiting to hear back.