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Chicago's First Airbnb Hotel To Open This Summer in Lincoln Park

By Mina Bloom | April 14, 2015 5:50am
 Liz Klafeta (pictured) is teaming up with development company New Era to open the city's first bed and breakfast that is using Airbnb as an advertising and booking platform.
Liz Klafeta (pictured) is teaming up with development company New Era to open the city's first bed and breakfast that is using Airbnb as an advertising and booking platform.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — This summer, a bed and breakfast with an eclectic design, a theater and a gym — among other amenities — is slated to open in Lincoln Park.

But instead of calling the front desk to book a room, guests will visit Airbnb. Its suites will be listed on the vacation rental website, making it the first bed and breakfast in the city that's using Airbnb as an advertising and booking platform, according to its founders.

"I don't know of anyone else that is doing this," said Airbnb "superhost" Liz Klafeta, who is teaming up with development company New Era to open the bed and breakfast.

While Klafeta declined to provide the address of the bed and breakfast, she said it would be located in a vintage building near Oz Park. It will contain five units, three of them full suites with kitchens and two to three bedrooms each. Each can sleep eight to 10 people. The other two are more "studio-sized" and can sleep one to two people each, she said.

A stay at the bed and breakfast will cost $300-$550 per night, depending on suite selection, Klafeta said. Guests will book through Airbnb or through Hometel International, Klafeta's website that's now under construction.

The basement will serve as a communal area with a theater, gym, wet bar and a ping pong table, as will the back patio, which is where private dinners, DJ performances and more events will be held in the summer. Another idea for the bed and breakfast: a single bowling lane.

"I want [guests] to be able to stay at an awesome place and feel like they're really taken care of," said Klafeta.

She also said she planned to put the spotlight on artists by rotating artwork both in and outside the building. One art installation Klafeta is planning to put in the back patio area: a giant, spinning Jesus sculpture decorated like a disco ball, or "Disco Jesus," as Klafeta calls it.

A design element at one of the apartments Klafeta lists on Airbnb. (DNAinfo/Mina Bloom)

That sculpture sums up the eclectic design style of Klafeta, who is tasked with designing the bed and breakfast.

The 31-year-old has worked as a wardrobe and prop stylist for more than a decade. She has rehabbed and designed four apartments on Airbnb in Chicago and two in New York City. All are full of unexpected design elements like a floor-to-ceiling window in the bathroom overlooking a stairwell or a neon sign that reads "THUG," along with found objects, including a cardboard ottoman she bought off an employee at a bar in Wicker Park.

Mina Bloom discusses the legality of an all Airbnb hotel:

"Nothing's Room and Board," Klafeta said referring to the high-end designer furniture store. 

She said the bed and breakfast would be outfitted with a "mix and match" design style. Guests should expect a blending of high-end custom furniture, Ikea and other low-budget pieces, as well as found objects.

A custom-made floating bed at one of the apartments Liz Klafeta lists on Airbnb. (DNAinfo/Mina Bloom)

While Klafeta primarily lives in New York City, she's in town to work on the bed and breakfast, among myriad other projects. She recently was commissioned to design the home of the head of public relations at Airbnb. She's also designing Forage and Craft, a farm-to-table restaurant coming to Old Orchard Mall.

At some point, she said she hopes to develop a system allowing guests to buy a piece of custom furniture they see in the bed and breakfast by providing contact information for the designer.

She said she's also planned to offer a "curated minibar" at all of her listings, including the bed and breakfast, or a box full of items, including a frozen pizza, locally made oils, sunglasses, jewelry and a carton of non-dairy ice cream from Nana Creme, a brand her sister created. The price of the items would be taken out of the guest's security deposit.

"We're curating this box so that when you are like, 'I'm in town for this bachelorette party,' it's all right there for you," she said.

But before Klafeta can implement her ideas or give the building a design makeover, Adam Saffro and Mike Hagenson with New Era have to make sure they meet the city's requirements. The development company bought the building and is handling the gut-rehab.

In Chicago, an Airbnb landlord with multiple listings must either get a vacation rental license or a bed and breakfast license for each unit, according to Mika Stambaugh, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Stambaugh added that if the unit was owner-occupied and if there were 11 or fewer sleeping rooms for rent, then the bed and breakfast license was applicable. If the building is not owner-occupied and has six or fewer sleeping rooms for rent, then the vacation rental license is applicable, she said. 

There also are a number of other factors that help determine which license is applicable, including zoning, building standards and characteristics of the property, such as the number of rooms, Stambaugh said.

"Apartments could potentially meet the criteria of either license type, and we address this on a case-by-case basis during the license process," she said.

Klafeta said they are in the process of obtaining a bed and breakfast license, and the building they chose meets the zoning requirement.

Cities across the country have been cracking down on the vacation rental website. Chicago and other cities have recently put the onus on Airbnb to collect the tax on vacation rentals arranged through their website.

As of Feb. 15, Airbnb collects and remits a 4.5 percent occupancy tax in Chicago. The tax appears as an extra charge on the guest's bill. The percentage varies in different cities; in San Francisco, for example, Airbnb will begin collecting a 14 percent occupancy tax this summer.

When asked why an Airbnb, rather than open a conventional bed and breakfast was selected, Klafeta pointed to the fact that she's already well established on the Airbnb website. She's racked up more than 180 positive reviews from guests who have stayed at her other units.

"[It] creates security and trust," she said. "[We're] using that platform, which shows the trust."

It's only the beginning for Klafeta and New Era's partnership. She said the Lincoln Park bed and breakfast is "going to be the start of a lot of them," adding that New Era recently bought another building in the same neighborhood that it's hoping to turn into a bed and breakfast and use Airbnb in the same way.

She said if there weren't specific legal requirements, she would "have a 100 of them already." 

"I get really upset when people want to stay with me, and I don't have a place for them," Klafeta said. "I feel like I need to hoard homes to put people in them."

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