Decisions to make Before opening a B&B

Are you a people person? Couples that operate a B&B should enjoy their guests. It is not uncommon for lasting friendships to form between hosts and guests, and this type of guest usually becomes a frequent repeat visitor and serves as a major source of referrals. If you are a people person and have a gracious home, a Bed & Breakfast may be the business for you.

People who stay at bed and breakfasts are not ordinary travelers. They are looking for quality lodging and service, as well as the uniqueness of each B&B and each innkeeper. In fact, B&B guests usually not looking for a bargain – they are willing to pay more for something unique or different.  

How many guest rooms/beds do you have? 

  • Do you own antiques or are your furnishings in great condition?
  • What type of beds does your room have? Twins or a queen/king do better than doubles, futons or waterbeds, etc.  

Consider the atmosphere of your town (and even of your home – do have a lot of street noise or an annoyingly bright security light in your neighbor’s backyard?). What do you have to offer that is charming, unique – why would someone stay a couple of nights in your town or in your home? That will help you market it and know who to market it to.

Will your guests get a private bathroom or will they have to share a bath?

Most B&Bs offer private baths – and some even offer en-suite, with each room – this means it is a master-bedroom layout and that the guest doesn’t have to go into a public area to enter the bathroom.

UH OH – remember more guests and shared bathrooms may even mean that YOU have to share a bath with guests, on occasion. 

If you do have shared baths, make sure to add a sign that can be flipped over to say “occupied.” And…..pssst – keep reading material in other rooms.

Security and Keys

Make these important decisions before your first guest:

  • Will you give all guests a key to your front door?
  • Will you give guests a key to their bedroom and leave the front door unlocked, certain hours?
  • Will you charge a refundable “key fee” (refunded when the guest returns the key)?
B&Bs and serving alcohol -- legally

About the all-important breakfast

Most guests want a special breakfast – but many guests are perfectly happy with a great selection of muffins and fruit. But, do know that they expect conversation: relaxed visits with the hosts and other guests and of course, great coffee. Your guest has chosen a B&B for the personal contact from YOU: the host.

Lastly – take a long hard look at your lifestyle. Although it might seem like easy bucks – this job requires a lack of privacy and many long hours (and a lot of cleaning!) Now, let’s get down to the legalities! In order to be granted a bed & breakfast alcohol license, an establishment must:

  • consist of no more than 15 bedrooms available for rent
  • offer transitory lodging (or non-permanent sleeping accommodations) to the public, in exchange for compensation
  • offer at least one meal per day (does not need not be breakfast) to each person to whom overnight lodging is provided

Restrictions & Conditions:

  • Where you purchase your alcohol that you plan to sell is important.
    • It must be purchased from a government store, wine or beer wholesaler or farm winery. 
    • Keep purchase receipts.
  • Alcoholic beverages may be served:
    • only to overnight guests (over legal drinking age)
    • in dining areas
    • in private guest rooms
    • in outside terraces or patios
  • No additional fees, premiums or surcharges, are allowed be charged for the service of alcoholic beverages.
  • Guests making reservations may order any alcohol beverage to be available upon their arrival (at no additional fee above the purchase price). 

Organization is key:

  • Alcohol inventory for your B&B must be stored away from any private alcohol stock (always keep personal alcohol stored separately).
  • Maintain complete and accurate records of the purchases of alcoholic beverages and provide sufficient evidence that at least one meal per day is offered to overnight guests.

*Disclaimer: this article and its contents represent the opinions of the author, only. It is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. ABC Consulting is a private consulting firm, and in no way do we represent the Va dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. You should not act upon any such information without seeking qualified professional advice based upon your situation.

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