When international visitors descend on Kentucky for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games they aren't likely to find a room in one popular kind of accommodation — the bed and breakfast — in Fayette County.
There are only two fully functional, licensed B&Bs serving Kentucky's second largest city. That compares to 11 in Woodford County and four in Georgetown.
In part, owners and former owners say, that's because the rules governing their businesses are too restrictive.
"The way they are written it almost guarantees failure," said Logan Leet, who ran Lexington's The Brand House at Rose Hill at 461 North Limestone Street before moving on to operating Lover's Leap Vineyard.
Fayette County's ordinance limits the number of rooms for rent to five.
Anton Giovanetto, owner of Lyndon House on North Broadway, said the standard for making a B&B profitable is seven rooms for rent. He has eight rooms but rents out only five at a time.
The ordinance also limits the innkeepers to only renting rooms and providing breakfast. That means other potential money makers, such wedding receptions, meetings or even providing spa services like massage aren't allowed.
Although she has operated The Swann's Nest in western Fayette County for 12 years, Rosalie Swann said she has been told by city officials that if she serves food past 11 a.m. it will be considered brunch and she could lose her business license. A few years ago, she had asked for a tweak in the ordinance so she could provide sandwiches for guests who arrive on late night flights.
After a hotly contested debate, she was told no.
Lobbyist Eddie O'Daniel worked on behalf of the Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky for three years to change the state law to allow up to 15 rooms at B&Bs. It has been a tough sell, he said. When the current state law was written in 1990, O'Daniel said many B&Bs were part-time enterprises, not full-scale businesses. The same is true of the Lexington ordinance, Leet said. When the ordinance was originally created, B&Bs were seen as an almost incidental use of a family home. In today's market a successful B&B needs to be run as a business, he said. Not allowing B&Bs to branch out beyond rooms and breakfast "seems crazy," said Leet.
"There is a great demand for that sort of thing," he said.
Karen Pedigo, who owns The Corner House in Nicholasville, considered buying The Brand House but is glad she is operating in Jessamine County. "I get calls all the time from people who are wanting to rent in Lexington," she said.
Even if the state law is passed, it wouldn't override Fayette's rules, O'Daniel said. It might, however, provide local innkeepers with some ammunition to fight for local changes.
Still, change could be slow in coming, said Bill Sallee, LFUCG planning manager.
"B&Bs and their regulation has been a very contentious issue with neighborhoods and with some rural landowners here for years and years," he said.
Even getting the original ordinance created in the 1980s took six years. That's because all registered neighborhood associations in Fayette County are required to receive a mailed notice of all proposed changes to the ordinance. Any change has met with stiff resistance, he said.
Marlene White fought for three years to open a B&B at 119 S. Ashland Ave. She said recently that neighbors worried that her business would become a magnet for drunks or other "undesirables." When she bought the property, it was zoned for B&B use. Ultimately, she said, vocal opponents pushed through a rezoning process that kept her from operating a B&B.
She found a loophole that allowed her to operate as a "guest house" for two years, but, she said, regulations prohibited her from advertising; ultimately she lost the house on which she had spent $920,000 to foreclosure.
Current officers of the Ashland Park Neighborhood Association, which opposed the B&B, did not respond to calls from the Herald-Leader. But Win Meeker, who was involved in creating the original ordinance, said B&Bs generate too much traffic and "and become a real burden to the neighbors when there are parties going on all the time."
Meeker, who has lived for 41 years in the Fayette Park neighborhood, said it's important for downtown neighborhoods to retain the residential character "we have fought so hard for." That includes stable, family neighborhoods. B&Bs are fine and most neighborhoods can sustain several, she said, but she wouldn't want any more in her neighborhood.
White argues that people just don't realize what a B&B really is.
"There were a lot of misconceptions about what a bed and breakfast is," she said. "They thought it was going to be some kind of big party house."
She said before she closed her place she had already booked guests for WEG, which begins in September.