Lawmakers are looking to the hospitality industry for help reaching the state’s new goal of making Florida the most military friendly state. A bill would require hotels to bend rules for military members who otherwise wouldn’t be old enough to book a room.
Rep. Bill Hager (R-Delray Beach) says his bill shows members of the military Florida supports them.
“We have 21 military bases here. We have significant military operations in Jacksonville, in Pensacola and we’re going to continue to welcome all military personnel and we’re going to continue to advise them that this is the state to be in,” Hager says.
Hager says he’s heard stories of military members in other states who’ve needed a place to stop on their way back to a military base, but couldn’t get a room because of a hotel’s age policy. And he’s not the only one. Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Vice President of Government Relations, Richard Turner, says his own son, had a similar experience while serving in the navy. Eventually everything in that case worked out, but Turner says hotels in Florida don’t want to be inflexible.
“We’re the hospitality industry and what we’re talking about here is a very small group of young people that are in an unusual little age bracket where sometimes lodging or car rentals or things can be very difficult because they’re not 21 or older and we think this is a wonderful accommodation for a very small group of people it’s a nice tip of the hat to our military. And while we’re always wary of regulations, this is one we would support totally,” Turner says.
Turner says many hotels in Florida are already making policy exceptions for military members. The association has surveyed its members on the topic.
“And they almost always waive that policy when a young military person comes in to seek a room. So, generally, it wouldn’t affect us anyway because we already voluntarily waive that policy for our young military folks,” Turner says.
One example of that is the Double Tree hotel in Tallahassee. John Kelly is the General Manager at the hotel. The Double Tree’s policy requires guests to be at least 21 years old to check into a room. Kelly says that’s for liability reasons.
“ Everyone has to understand, we’re in a college town. We have three big colleges here – FAMU, FSU and TCC. So, we’re very conscious when there’s sorority parties, fraternity parties and even at a high school level in today’s day and age when you have a young man or young girl that wants to have a room on prom night. And it’s not that we don’t like that type of business, but with insurance and liability that becomes a big issue,” Kelly says.
But Kelly he says his hotel has a long history of bending that rule for members of the military.
“It’s a no brainer. To everyone in this hotel, including myself it’s an honor to serve the people that serve in our military,” Kelly says.
He says continuing that tradition if that bill becomes law won’t be a problem and he can’t see it being a problem for most other hotels in the state.
The Bill is slated to get its first hearing from the House Business and Professions Subcommittee. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is sponsoring the measure in the Senate.