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Hotel Lawyers -- featured subjects and articles
Meet the Money® 2014

ADA defense and compliance

EB-5 financing

Workouts, bankruptcies & receiverships

Hotel Management Agreements

Hotel Franchise & License Agreements

Hotel industry trends

This is Jim Butler, author of www.HotelLawBlog.com and hotel lawyer. Please contact me at Jim Butler at jbutler@jmbm.com or 310.201.3526.

Published on:

1 February 2017

Theft of confidential data by hackers is a major threat to businesses worldwide and the hotel industry is no exception. Hoteliers remain vulnerable to hackers seeking confidential information such as guests’ credit card data and employees’ personal information. They are also vulnerable in other ways. In a recent hotel breach, the hackers did not go after confidential data, but rather sought a ransom payment after taking control of the hotel’s technology. My partner Bob Braun, senior member of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® and co-chair of JMBM’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Group, describes what happened, and shares what hotels can do in response to such threats.

Hotels and Ransomware — Something Special
by
Robert E. Braun

Last year, at the Global Hospitality Group’s Meet the Money™ Conference, I participated in a panel on Cybersecurity and we discussed how cybersecurity issues affect the hotel industry.  One of the comments was that hotels, more than most private industries, have to take into account the kind of physical harm that might be done by a hacker. We noted that not only are guest information systems targets, but also the life and safety systems – HVAC, elevators, electricity and so on.  We concluded that while financial theft could impact a hotel and its reputation, a hack of the physical structure of a business could put the hotel out of business.

Locked Out

Our discussion turned out to be prescient when, this week, Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, in the Austrian Alps, had their systems frozen by hackers, which resulted in the complete shutdown of hotel computers.

The 111-year-old hotel had already been targeted by hackers twice.  This time, however, the hackers breached the key card system, made it impossible for guests to enter their rooms and prevented the front desk from reprogramming cards.

The hackers demanded €1500 in Bitcoin, promising that control of the key card system and room locks would be returned.  Management of the hotel, fully occupied at the beginning of the winter season, chose to pay the ransom, rather than attempt a solution that could have taken significant time and harmed their 180 guests. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

 

10 January 2017

I have often mentioned how much I enjoy working with all my friends and colleagues in the hospitality industry.  I am also fortunate to work with the talented, committed group of lawyers who comprise Global Hospitality Group®.  It is with pleasure that I let you know that one of our members, Brandon Chock, has been promoted to Partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM).

Brandon has a keen legal mind, more than 10 years’ experience in the world of real estate, finance and hospitality, an awesome work ethic and is an all-around pleasure to work with. I love having him on my team, and our clients love him on their team, too!

Brandon has played a key role in numerous hotel transactions, including: CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

6 January 2017

ADA Hospitality Defense and Compliance Lawyer: Hotel mixed-use projects have proliferated over the past decade or two — projects that combine a hotel with retail, residential, entertainment, office and other uses. In recent years, many of these projects combine hotel and shopping center elements. We are big fans of hotel mixed-use.

Over the years, we have written about the numerous advantages that accrue to both hotels and shopping centers, when hotels are added to the right shopping or retail center.  One study showed that the right hotel can boost gross sales at shopping centers 20% – 40% — and hotels can get 30% – 40% RevPAR advantage over hotels in their competitive set.

But those of you with these hotel in mixed-use projects with shopping centers or other retail elements know that mixed-use projects inject numerous additional legal and business issues that hoteliers usually don’t deal with in stand-alone hotel projects. One such critical issue is that of “common areas.”

In the article below, my partner, Marty Orlick, writes about one aspect of common area liability that you may have overlooked in defense to ADA violations. Of course, the ultimate analysis will depend on the precise facts of the situation at hand and the structure of the hotel’s participation in the mixed-use project — particularly whether or not the hotel is owned in fee or is a tenant in the project.

How many judges does it take to rule that shopping center tenants
are not liable for ADA violations in common areas?
by
Marty Orlick

First published in the October 2015 issue of the California State Bar’s Real Property Law Section E-Bulletin

Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) “to provide clear, strong consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities” in employment, public accommodations, transportation and federal, state and local government services. 42 U.S.C.§12101(b)(2). Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations including shopping centers, theaters, arenas, restaurants, health clubs, hotels, banks, public space in office buildings, and nearly every manner of retail premises. Virtually every leased location which serves the general public and is engaged in commerce is subject to the accessibility requirements of the ADA. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

31 December 2016

Yesterday, I had a delightful year-end lunch at the SoHo House with a remarkable man I have known and worked with about 25 years. I am very proud to call him my friend and include him amongst our “celebrity clients.”

When I first met this hotelier, he had recently left Four Seasons Newport Beach, and taken over the helm of the newly opened Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel. With a hands-on intensity, he quickly turned around the financial performance at the hotel, earned the elusive 5 stars and 5 diamonds, and made the hotel the most profitable in The Peninsula Group with the highest guest return ratio in the market.

Ali Kasikci — a perfectionist’s never-ending efforts

Kasikci%203-2-09%20.jpg

Yes, I am talking the legendary Ali V. Kasikci, named Independent Hotelier of the World in 2004 by HOTELS magazine and holder of countless industry awards for excellence.

From the Peninsula Group, Ali enhanced his already keen skills for hotel development, new hotel openings, and then building the team and instilling discipline to deliver unparalleled levels of service and profitability. Thus, Ali was a key member of the team that developed and launched the Montage Beverly Hills. Under his management, the new Montage (like the Peninsula before) also earned 5 stars and 5 diamonds in record time. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

12 December 2016

EB-5 financing for developers extended. Obama signs “Continuing Resolution”

On December 9, 2016, President Obama signed the “Continuing Resolution” passed by Congress to extend funding of the federal government until April 28, 2017, by which time it is expected that Congress will have approved a budget for the full fiscal year.

EB-5 Regional Center program also extended to April 28, 2017

As with several prior budget extensions, the Continuing Resolution included an extension of the EB-5 program’s Regional Center provisions, validating expectations of industry experts.

This means that developers who followed our advice to “get in line” with their projects last fall (when some concerns over EB-5 renewal were raised) have either raised their EB-5 capital by now or should have plenty of time to do so before the current extension signed by President Obama runs out next April.

Why NOW may be the best time for developers to start EB-5 financing

Developers who followed our advice last fall have been well served. On August 16, 2016, we published a blog article entitled “Why NOW may be the best time for developers to start EB-5 financing.” We feel the same way today.

In our earlier article, we warned that there is always some uncertainty in predicting what Congress will do. However, all people that we know who are knowledgeable about the EB-5 program and the political environment believe that EB-5 will be renewed and continued in a viable form. Some developers are uncomfortable with the uncertainty created by short-term legislative sunsets on the extensions, and on accepting predictions that Congress will continue the program we have maintained since 1992 — almost 25 years. These developers want to wait until everything has settled down and has more certainty.

We believe the “wait and see” approach is a mistake for many developers — particularly those who are ready to start construction now. Here is why: CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

12 December 2016

I was recently interviewed by GlobeSt.com to discuss Chinese investment in the United States, including why the US is an attractive market for Chinese dollars, how it helps the US economy, and what it means for the Chinese market. Some selected excerpts from our conversation are below.

The driving factors behind Chinese foreign investment in the United States:

Chinese investors will deploy a record $212.7 billion in investments outside China. This trend is driven by a number of factors: Chinese real estate and stock market bubbles are bursting; The Chinese economy is slowing down so foreign investment (as in the US) are more attractive; The yuan has been depreciating against the dollar, making US dollar-denominated investments more attractive. Many Chinese investors, ranging from very wealthy individuals to insurance companies, find themselves with significant amounts of cash that need to be deployed into large, high-yielding investments. US commercial real estate is one of the few markets and asset types that can meet these requirements (large, high-yielding).

Chinese foreign investment has been encouraged by the Chinese government for building “soft power,” which is building the image of China and expanding its influence. Finally, many Chinese investors see synergies for using their foreign investment to take advantage of the Chinese market. Chinese travelers are expected to spend more than $72 billion at home and abroad in 2016. So everything related to travel, tourism, lodging, and entertainment plays into this growing market.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

10 November 2016

Global Hospitality Group® survey results: What does all the recent consolidation in the hotel industry mean to different stakeholders?

Marriott closed its acquisition of Starwood on September 23, 2016, following Accor’s closing of its acquisition of Fairmont/Raffles on July 12, 2016. Other consolidations may already be underway. In any event, most of us in the hotel industry expect some very important consequences to result from such transactions.

The hotel lawyers at JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® thought it would be interesting to gather the views of various industry stakeholders as to the likely impact of these mergers. So just prior to the closing of the Marriott-Starwood deal, we prepared a short survey and reached out to our industry friends and colleagues, as well as readers of HotelLawBlog.com.

The survey results are in and counted! Here they are, along with a few comments.

Impact of hotel mergers on your business CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

7 November 2016

Hotel Lawyer on multi-branded hotels.

Hotels with more than one brand are increasingly common, but it wasn’t always so. Although some compelling advantages are driving this trend in many situations, developers and owners should weigh the advantages against other considerations.

My partner Bob Braun is a senior member of our Global Hospitality Group® and has experience with many hundreds of hotel management and franchise agreements. Bob is also co-author of the Hotel Management Agreement & Franchise Agreement Handbook (3rd edition), and has first-hand experience with branding and management for every major traditional hotel brand, including a number of multi-branded properties. Today he explores the phenomenon in greater detail.

Dual-branded & multi-branded hotels:
Opportunities and challenges
by
Bob Braun, Hotel Lawyer

The trend of dual-branded and multi-branded hotels

Over the past few years, the popularity of multi-branded properties has exploded. Less than a decade ago, a dual-branded hotel was an oddity. Then dual branding became more common, and some properties began to use more than two brands, so “multi-branding” was born in the hotel industry. In the early days, multi-branding resulted from unique circumstances. Today, it is driven by a number of factors discussed below, and there are nearly 100 properties with multiple brands and nearly that many again in construction. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

20 October 2016

David Loeb, Senior Research Analyst at RW Baird, presented his research during the Meet the Money® 2017 planning meeting hosted recently during The Lodging Conference. His presentation covered factors currently impacting the hospitality industry, including the stock market, cap rate changes, hotel REITs, and new technologies.

I found David’s presentation very interesting and noted the following highlights:

  • Hotel supply and demand growth are nearly in equilibrium, and forecasts still call for continuing positive grow
  • Many investors are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the next downturn
  • Secondary and tertiary markets are outperforming
  • Select service continues to grow in popularity and is getting a premium valuation
  • In terms of market capitalization, the hotel industry is comprised of “Host and 14 dwarves,” but when compared to non-hotel REITs (such as retail industry giant Simon Property Group), it is more like 15 dwarves
  • Transparency in hotel pricing and technology are having a dramatic effect on the hotel industry

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

19 October 2016

ADA Defense Lawyer with a new case on Uber and Lyft

Uber and Lyft are back in the headlines again, but not for the usual ride share issues. This time it is for alleged violations of the ADA. Here is what my partner Marty Orlick, Chair of our ADA Compliance & Defense Group, has to say on this development.

The City of Brotherly Love is Showing Love to Persons with Disabilities
Under the ADA,
but not to Lyft or Uber
by
Martin H. Orlick, Chair, JMBM’s ADA Compliance & Defense Group

From coast to coast, Uber and Lyft have come under increasing fire from disability rights organizations and have faced litigation because their ride share practices allegedly discriminate against persons with disabilities.  Federal lawsuits were also filed in San Francisco against Uber and Lyft .

In what appears to be the most draconian decision to date, a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge ruled on October 6, 2016 that Uber and Lyft repeatedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and issued an order suspending their rideshare services in the City of Brotherly Love.  The ramifications of this Order could be felt throughout the United States and Canada, which has similar civil rights laws to protect persons with disabilities.

Common Pleas Judge Linda Carpenter’s Order in Blount v. Philadelphia Parking Authority granted plaintiff’s request for an injunction prohibiting the parking authority from authorizing Uber and Lyft to operate in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Complaint alleged that Uber and Lyft systematically failed to provide vehicles which accommodate persons in wheelchairs, routinely refuse to accommodate persons who travel with service animals and charge excessive pricing for such accommodations. CONTINUE READING →