Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Council Mulls Next Move on “Racist” Hotel Policy

Ald. Lewis considering license options. Three hotels have policies rejecting area residents.

By - Dec 17th, 2019 04:36 pm
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Chantia Lewis Inauguration Speech (Photo by City of Milwaukee)

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis in 2016. Photo from the City of Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously rejected a zoning change Tuesday morning for a new sign for the Comfort Suites hotel at 10831 W. Park Pl. on the city’s far northwest side.

But it’s not about the sign, it’s about a hotel policy that bans guests from within 30 miles. And now the council must figure out what, if anything, it can do about the policy.

“Sorry we just can’t support such a racist policy,” said Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II earlier this month after the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee heard a presentation on the sign from Greg Jens of Oshkosh-based Mid-State Sign Service.

“I have family here in Milwaukee,” said Jens. “I travel to Milwaukee to do so sign work, to visit my family. I have to state that I spoke to several of the hotel employees on my recent stay here. They are very happy with this policy, in that it allows the people of Milwaukee, the residents of Milwaukee, to have their family come to this location and be free of any potential dangers that they believe happen at any other hotels such as drug use.”

The policy came to light in November when Alderwoman Chantia Lewis objected to what appeared to be a simple zoning change. “I have first hand witnessed their lack of compassion, community involvement,” said Lewis on the council floor. “As I tried to check in, they turned me away immediately once I showed them my ID,” said the African-American alderwoman.

“My hope is to really dive deep into this policy and ensure that you can’t do business like this in the city,” said Lewis in an interview with Urban Milwaukee after the vote. She said she is requesting an opinion from the independent City Attorney’s office.

Her concern is about more than this one hotel, “because they’re not the only ones operating under this 30-mile rule,” Lewis said. “So I want to make sure Milwaukeeans aren’t negatively impacted number one,” said Lewis. “Two, you don’t get benefit off the [Democratic National Convention] if you are literally and explicitly excluding Milwaukee residents.”

Her raising of the issue in November led to the file being sent back to committee, where Jens made his presentation and defended the policy. But the committee wanted to hear from the hotel’s owners.

It might take some time for that to happen.

Neither the owners nor a representative were on hand last week when the issue came before a council committee nor on Tuesday morning when the hotel was again before the full council. The 15-member body rejected the change without discussion.

The hotel’s license won’t expire until February 2020.

Multiple calls to the hotel’s ownership group, Monona Lodging, have gone unanswered. The group is recognized as a “foreign business corporation” in state records with an Illinois address. It acquired the hotel in May for $3.9 million. State records indicate Anup Patel is the company’s registered agent.

What Other Hotels Have This Policy?

After calling a number of area hotels, Urban Milwaukee was able to find two other area hotels offering a similar policy and four hotels that require area residents to place an extra deposit.

A Holiday Inn Express, 1400 W. Zellman St., near the airport does not rent to residents living within 20 miles of the hotel according to a call to the hotel’s front desk. Comfort Inn & Suites in suburban Oak Creek also does not rent to residents with 30 miles. “Guests that reside within a 30-mile radius of the hotel are not permitted to stay at the Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport,” reads the hotel’s website.

Quality Suites, 4488 S. 27th St., requires a $100 deposit for guests from within 50 miles. Quality Inn, 11333 W. Silver Spring Dr., requires a $100 deposit by credit card for guests coming from within 30 miles.

A Candlewood Suites in suburban Brown Deer has posted a requirement for a $500 deposit via credit card for residents within 30 miles. That mirrors a policy at the Holiday Inn Express located across the parking lot.

The northwest side Comfort Suites policy is posted on the hotel’s website. “This property does not rent to local area residents, you must live outside a 30-mile radius from the hotel,” reads the hotel alerts section.

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9 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Mulls Next Move on “Racist” Hotel Policy”

  1. Jeffjay60 says:

    What is the point of not allowing residents (Whatever that means) to stay at a hotel, if not to discriminate? I can think of half a dozen good reasons why someone might need to stay at a hotel in the area in which they live.

  2. weitenma83 says:

    Why do the hotels have this policy? Have they had trouble with locals in the past? If so, how much? The hotels don’t seem to be talking. Also, is this a common policy for hotels nationwide in big cities?

  3. blurondo says:

    While racism may be a component of this policy, it seems that these properties are aiming more at trying to control illegal activities that may occur in their rooms. Drug dealing, drug use and prostitution come to mind.

  4. Phyllis Wax says:

    I will no longer stay in any Holiday Inn, Quality Suite, Comfort Inn or Candlewood Suite anywhere. These policies are discriminatory.

  5. Dave Maiman says:

    Problem is that when something bad happens the same people scream nuisance property. Can’t have it both ways. How about some viable solutions instead of just claiming racist policy.

  6. Jhenry1131 says:

    I have commented on this before, but I am a VIP member of Holiday Inn and I was denied when I tried to book a room in Milwaukee (where I live) for my mother who had to leave her apartment for a few days. Although this was inconvenient I understand why they have this policy. I am guilty of having hotel parties, many times and so have my friends. I can now look back and see how those parties were very disruptive to the hotel and their other guests. I think this policy is more about location than it is racism.

  7. Lee Bitts says:

    I propose these hotels offer shelter to the homeless during cold weather as a way of atoning for previous discriminatory practices.

  8. Mark Nicolini says:

    I believe a significant security deposit and a check on the number of folks entering the unit could prevent the problems hotels are trying to avoid. Back in the day when I lived in an apartment without air conditioning, I occasionally took a hotel room on a hot muggy night just for the AC.

    I also resent the {possible} implication that Ms.Chantia Lewis posed a potential for illegal activities. She’s done more positive things for the community than any of these hotel owners. This hotel owes her an apology,

  9. dk mke says:

    25 years ago, I wanted a hotel room in my hometown, and was denied. Medium-sized, mostly white, middle of the state city. This isn’t new, and isn’t as simple as being “racist”.

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