The owners and operators of hotels in or near downtown Milwaukee received about $11.3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds distributed by the state. Recipients say the money is an investment in an industry that plays a vital role in local economies but has been hit hard by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The grants to downtown hotel operators are a fraction of the $70 million-plus in American Rescue Plan Act funding distributed to Wisconsin's lodging industry this summer. Milwaukee-based Marcus Hotels & Resorts, which owns three downtown hotel properties, received the maximum single award of $2 million. Three hotel ownership groups affiliated with Milwaukee-based Jackson Street Holdings LLC received grants totaling $3.16 million. Greg Marcus, chief executive officer of Marcus Corp., said he views the grants as an investment in a vital industry for Wisconsin tourism. Marcus Hotels & Resorts, part of Marcus Corp., owns the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, Pfister Hotel and Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel downtown. "I think you have to look at this support as an investment in catalytic economic drivers," Marcus said in an interview. He pointed out that hotel guests also spend their money on shopping, meals and entertainment. This benefits the broader local economy. "Our businesses are anchors of economic investment," he said. Gov. Tony Evers announced in early August that more 888 lodging businesses across Wisconsin received grants to help them offset losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed grant data was not posted by the state until late September. The owners of the Kalahari resort in the Wisconsin Dells also received a $2 million grant. They and Marcus Hotels were the only ones to receive that amount, according to the state data. Jackson Street Holdings owns The Westin Milwaukee, Milwaukee Marriott Downtown and SpringHill Suites by Marriott Milwaukee Downtown, through affiliates. Those hotels received approximately $1.44 million, $1.27 million and $452,600, respectively. Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group LLC, which operates the Kimpton Journeyman in the Historic Third Ward, received about $1.2 million. Downtown Ventures LLP, which is owned by the investors who own the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Milwaukee Downtown, received about $743,200. Rider Hotel LLC, which owns the Iron Horse Hotel in Walker's Point, received more than $643,900. Potawatomi Hotel & Casino received nearly $642,900. Those were the downtown-area hotels that were among the top 20 grant recipients by way of dollar amount. Others in the top 20 included several hotels and resorts in Wisconsin Dells and a couple in the Madison area. The group also included other southeastern Wisconsin hotel owners and operators. Bloomington, Minn.-based Burwell Enterprises, which owns the Ingleside Hotel in Waukesha, received a grant of $1.43 million. An affiliate of Minneapolis-based CSM Corp. that owns the Milwaukee Marriott West hotel in Waukesha received nearly $816,400. The operators of the Blue Harbor resort in Sheboygan received about $775,700. According to Evers' office, Wisconsin’s tourism industry supported more than 157,000 jobs across the state and had a $17.3 billion impact on the state economy in 2020. This was despite a pandemic that for much of the year heavily impacted hotels, resorts and convention centers. Lodging grants were funded by ARPA and administered by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. “Members of Wisconsin's lodging industry are essential to tourism in our state, and they were hit very hard by the coronavirus pandemic," Evers said in a statement in August. "Tourists and residents alike depend on their services when visiting or traveling around our beautiful state. We appreciate the work they've done under difficult circumstances. We are pleased to be able to provide a shot in the arm to an industry that needs it." A recent BizTimes Milwaukee feature looked at what could be on the horizon for downtown hotels. Industry experts said there were signs of hope. Industry data showed that hotel occupancy rates in late summer were still down from pre-pandemic levels, but up from last year. Average daily room rates, meanwhile, were in line with 2019 numbers. "I think what you can see is business is better than it was a year ago, it’s not back to what it was, and you don’t know where it’s going," Marcus said.
Holiday flash sale! Subscribe to BizTimes and save nearly 40%!