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Downers Grove, Illinois Hotel Managers Back Minimum Age Rental Plan

DOWNERS GROVE, Illinois – Hotel and motel managers in Downers Grove have agreed to push for a village ordinance that would prohibit renting a room to anyone under 21.

Mark Ravenscraft, general manager of Marriott Suites Downers Grove and chairman of the village’s Visitors Bureau board of directors, said he wanted to see if managers would be receptive to such an ordinance, in hopes of preventing problems. In a meeting last week , representatives from most of the village’s seven hotels and three motels said they were willing to try it.

The idea came from CenterPark, which adopted an ordinance in May to stop hotels from being used for underage drinking parties.

“In general, we don’t really have a problem in Downers Grove. For the most part, we’re looking at it as a pro-active measure,” Ravenscraft said.

“Our industry is growing, and we just want to be in front of any potential problems.”

A “problem” with renting a room to a minor, Ravenscraft said, could mean someone skipping out on a bill, leaving a damaged room or underage drinking.

“We’re not saying in Downers Grove there is an overriding issue,” Ravenscraft said.

The Marriott Suites, he estimated, sees only three or four situations per year that could lead to trouble with minors.

“There are a lot of very mature young adults out there,” Ravenscraft said. “Unfortunately, there are a few that aren’t and those are the ones we need to be mindful of.”

The managers praised police for alerting them to high school proms and dances. The department lets them know when schools are holding proms to keep hotels on guard for teens looking for a place to celebrate, Police Chief Riccardo Ginex said.

Incidents involving minors renting hotel rooms have become rare in recent years, he said.

“The kids have really taken on a new attitude,” Ginex said. “As far as us getting any complaints or responding to situations, it’s pretty low.”

“For us, it’s not really a prom issue, but it’s when we let our guard down throughout the remainder of the year that we’re susceptible to problems,” Ravenscraft said.

Illinois does not have a law that requires hotels to turn away customers based on age, but several hotels have set their own policies.

Suburban Lodge has a corporate policy prohibiting clerks from renting rooms to people under 18, said Jack Murphy, general manager of the Downers Grove facility. And Holiday Inn Express has a policy that requires guests to be 21 or older, said Wendy Heberling, general manager of the Downers Grove Holiday Inn Express.

“Basically, we just want a little bit of backup,” Murphy said of the proposed ordinance.

“If a person gets difficult when they’re trying to check in, we can say, `Well, it’s against the law.'”

Having an ordinance in place also would give hotels some legal recourse when an adult rents a room for a minor, managers said.

If the adult checks in, passes the key to a minor and the bill is unpaid or a room is damaged, the hotel could hold the adult responsible.

As for a potential loss of revenue with such an ordinance in place, Lisa Wisner, director of the Downers Grove Visitors Bureau, said the majority of weekday lodging business comes from corporate guests.

Hotel managers seemed to agree that a law requiring them to turn away guests under 21 would not hurt business, especially if he had