Inn Vogue

Running a bed & breakfast is a tough business, but one that can succeed with the right plan

addition in Washington, D.C., which has eight guest rooms and one apartment suite, carried a price tag of $950,000.

The money it takes to convert a home into a bed and breakfast can be considerable, too, especially for the quaint older homes innkeepers often choose. Greenwood says her biggest conversion bill for the Washington, D.C. , property was for plumbing, particularly adding bathrooms and fitting boilers to heat water. In Cape May (which is only open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day), costs were kept to $20,000 since she bought a home that was already operating as a bed and breakfast. Her Washington, D.C., inn, however, took a $175,000 commitment. Greenwood says that there is just no scrimping when it comes to accommodations. “We attract guests by being a special place, and that means that we have to offer comforts and luxuries to make their visit meaningful,” she says.

In a typical month, ongoing costs for Akwaaba Mansion include a $2,100 monthly mortgage, $1,600 for help to take reservations, and $500 for insurance. Utility fees include $225 a month for electricity, $125 for water, $250 for heating oil, and $50 for cooking gas. Fortunately, Greenwood says that she can count on a 60% occupancy rate.

In most states, bed and breakfasts must be licensed. They must also meet numerous codes, including health, fire, zoning, and building regulations. The cost of compliance is a major consideration in determining the economic feasibility of your business. Greenwood and Pogue had their share of challenges in this area.

Inn the Zone
When getting ready to open the Brooklyn location, Greenwood was
dismayed to hear that some local residents didn’t like the idea of a business in their residential neighborhood. “I was shocked at first,” recalls Greenwood. “My husband and I thought we were doing something to make the neighborhood better, and we really didn’t expect some of our neighbors to want to fight that.” But because there are no zoning regulations governing bed and breakfasts in the New York City area, there aren’t any zoning laws on the books regarding this type of establishment. “Initially, they wanted to apply hotel regulations to me, which of course wouldn’t make sense,” recalls Greenwood. She and her husband then began a grassroots campaign, talking about their situation with the local media and community gatherings. It worked.

Help came from a local architect who had heard of Greenwood’s plight. “He was able to show there was a code that stated single family homes built before a prior date may house guests who pay for that consideration.” This enabled the home to operate as a bed and breakfast, and they were open for business–albeit after shutting down for seven months.

“Akwaaba was our home, so we knew we wouldn’t lose our home,” says Greenwood. She says it was heartening to find many neighbors soon rallying behind their cause. “A local architect came to us and helped us fight to get zoning, and a lot of people circulated petitions on our behalf.”

According to Michael Yovino-Young, a Berkeley, California-based

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