WYOMING, Mich. – Smoking or non-smoking, it’s a phrase that was wiped out of the vocabulary in the state three years ago when smoking inside nearly every Michigan business was made illegal.
While smokers have been ‘taking it outside’ since May of 2010, one hotel owner in West Michigan saw a business opportunity.
At 83-years-old Bob Sullivan has been in the hospitality business for years. He is the owner of the Howard Johnson on 28th street in Wyoming just East of Highway 131.
Sullivan says smokers are an untapped customer base in his business, “I feel sorry for them because they have to go way out through the lobby or wherever to smoke if they have hotel room.”
So to avoid that inconvenience, Sullivan built off-suite patios for his guests.
“Taking the windows out that we had for the rooms and putting in sliding doors and building a patio where they can sit outside, outside their room privately and smoke,” he said.
A business model he’s been using for a year now, “So I built a few of them,” he said, “started with about 10 or 12 rooms and now we are up to 20 some because there is such a demand for them. We only charge seven to 10 dollars a night more for those rooms and it’s a big advantage for them. They love it.”
People can rent a smokers room and smoke whatever they feel like, “If they want to smoke a so called joint, that’s their business I guess.”
You can get arrested for smoking marijuana in Wyoming, but police say in the past year they’ve had zero complaints about illegal smoking at the Howard Johnson on 28th street.
“I don’t know if anyone has taken advantage, but they could if they like,” he said.
Ashley Houston was taking advantage of her smoking room for the night, smoking purely cigarettes.
“I got safety up there,” she said pointing to her smoking room balcony on the second floor of the hotel. “I can allow whoever I want in my room. I can smoke without anyone hassling me for a cigarette.”
She said having this convenience is reason enough for her to make a return visit, “I’m pretty sure it’s going to bring in business for sure. Just from smokers, they are going to hear about the balcony and be like, ‘Oh really!’ ”
Sullivan owns two other hotels in the area but said the design of his other hotels do not allow for patios like he has at the Howard Johnson.