Winlock Haunted Hostel operates without business license

By Lynnette Hoffman

The Winlock Haunted Hostel is a business located in the downtown core of Winlock. A business that several have asked about and wondered if it is a hotel, a tattoo place, or an antique store. According to a recent records request, it is none of the above. The Winlock Haunted Hostel does not have a business license to operate in the City of Winlock, period.

The Haunted Hostel opened during Mayor Dowell's term, the approval was for three rooms. Since that time, the business has added more rooms without building permits and without a city business license. The city has sent several letters to the owner regarding obtaining a business license for over two years, to no avail. Now, there seems to be structural issues per the City of Winlock's structural engineer.

The Lewis County Fire District completed an inspection on April 27, 2020 and found there were many safety and hazardous issues with the building. The exits were not clear, they did not have required exit signs, fire alarms needed, room doors had locks on the outside (as if to lock someone in the room) and they did not have required fire extinguishers. At the time of the inspection there were 13 tenants living in unsafe and hazard conditions, far above what the previous business license allowed.

The letter from Exodus Engineering, Inc., states in part, "County data list the construction as 1920 and in poor condition. Two different issues are of concern regarding this building, in the professional opinion of Exodus Engineering. First, and separate from any future use, is the fact that the building used to act as a larger structure, and therefore has been drastically modified. The modifications that happened, because of fire, demo, or whatever the actual history of the building is, resulted in a severely modified structure. This modified structure should have been evaluated by a licensed engineer, based upon the change in load resisting elements. As the current code sits today, this would at a minimum, be considered a level 3 alteration." The engineer has recommended a full depth analysis by a registered Structural Engineer before any plans or change of occupancy can occur.

On July 9, City Attorney's, Buzzard and O'Rourke, sent a letter to the owner of the building, Jesse Martin. In the letter it states, "The City of Winlock has an ordinance which prohibits your property being in such condition due to the health and safety factors involved." The City of Winlock is giving Martin 30 days to obtain a structural engineering report from a state licensed structural engineer.

The Haunted Hostel has been keeping the Winlock Police Department busy as well as J.Net, the law enforcement department that handles illegal drugs in Lewis County. According to police reports, the City of Winlock is there approximately twice a month with disorderly conduct, harassment, attempted suicide and various issues. The majority of the calls are disorderly conduct involving parties under the influence of drugs and alcohol or harassment, even one person was threatening suicide. J.Net also has been to the Haunted Hostel where arrests for heroin have taken place.

In one police report, the owner was upset because a tenant was giving methamphetamines to other tenants. Another report was a referral by adult protective services due to a female who was a victim of possible sexual abuse. The victim stated she "drank a fifth '' and doesn't remember the evening. Only that she was in the same clothes and was sure nothing happened. The police have been called to the Haunted Hostel on several occasions for many different reasons.

The Haunted Hostel has been operating illegally for over two years, now it has structural issues. The City of Winlock has given the owner of the Haunted Hostel 30 days in which to get an independent structural engineer report and an additional 30 days to make the needed structural changes. If the owner does not comply, the City of Winlock will have no other option than to start legal proceedings.