Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Council Bans “Racist” Hotel Policies

Metro residents must be allowed to stay in Milwaukee hotels says new ordinance.

By - Feb 11th, 2020 12:47 pm
Comfort Suites at 10831 W. Park Pl. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Comfort Suites at 10831 W. Park Pl. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee hotels will no longer be able to prevent Milwaukee residents from staying in them.

The Common Council passed the restriction Tuesday morning in response to what one member said was a “racist policy” by a northwest side hotel.

In November the council was about to approve a new sign for the Comfort Suites hotel at 10831 W. Park Pl., but Alderwoman Chantia Lewis objected because of a policy the hotel has of banning guests from within 30 miles. “I have first hand witnessed their lack of compassion, community involvement,” said Lewis, an African American, on the council floor. “As I tried to check in, they turned me away immediately once I showed them my ID.” Lewis’ family had been seeking a place to stay for the night while repairs were being made to her northwest side home.

A representative of an Oshkosh-based sign company defended the policy when it was sent back to the committee, while the hotel’s Illinois-based ownership group did not appear. The council ultimately rejected a zoning change. “Sorry we just can’t support such a racist policy,” said Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II. Lewis promised to introduce an ordinance to protect Milwaukee residents.

Multiple hotel industry employees and city officials have told Urban Milwaukee that the policies were in part designed to combat human trafficking. And the new ordinance attempts to bolster the city’s efforts to fight the problem while restricting hotel access based on residence.

As part of their annual license renewal, hotels will now be required to submit their employee training plan regarding identifying guest behavior indicative of human trafficking behavior. Guests will also be required to provide photo identification to the hotel to stay on the premises.

“It’s a testament to all of us and to our city for how we rallied together when it comes to discrimination,” said Lewis after the council unanimously approved the measure. She thanked her co-author Ald. Robert Bauman as well as co-sponsors Stamper, Nikiya Dodd and Milele A. Coggs.

Lewis also thanked Legislative Reference Bureau drafter Dana Zelazny, the Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and Dana World-Patterson of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee for their work on the proposal. “I’m really glad we are able to get something in place,” said Lewis.

The ordinance applies to hotels, motels and other city-licensed dwelling facilities. The protection extends to residents of other cities within a hotel’s restricted radius.

The City Attorney’s office issued an opinion that the ordinance is legal and enforceable.

The proposal next heads to Mayor Tom Barrett for approval. A new file to approve a zoning change for a sign at Comfort Suites is pending before the Common Council.

What Other Hotels Have This Policy?

After calling a number of area hotels in December, 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. The Oak Creek hotel along with any other hotels outside the City of Milwaukee, would not be impacted by the policy, but Oak Creek residents would benefit from the new protections in the policy.

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. Both policies would now be illegal.

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. Neither hotel would be impacted by the change.

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Related Legislation: File 191423

Categories: City Hall, Real Estate

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