NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A Florida couple was shocked to find out a local hotel would not rent them a room for the very fact that they live in town.
Diane and Bob Buhler of North Fort Myers were looking forward to a stay-cation getaway over the weekend. Bob Buhler made reservations on the booking website Priceline for the Best Western Fort Myers Waterfront.
"I said to my wife, you have two days off. Lets get a hotel right here for two nights," he said. "They gave me a confirmation, they took my credit card, the hotel had a reservation, and the website had a reservation number."
However, the two were turned away at check-in. "She looks at the license and says, 'you can't stay here, you're a Lee County resident,'" Bob Buhler said. "I said, what are you talking about? She said, 'We don't rent rooms to Lee County residents, you have to leave.'"
The hotel's website states this policy on their homepage. It reads, "This hotel’s policy is to accept bookings only from guests outside the Lee County Area."
"What kind of rule is this," Bob Buhler said. "It's some sort of discrimination against Lee County residents."
According to local attorneys, this practice is legal. It would only be illegal if the establishment was turning away people based on age, race, color, religion, nationality, or disability.
Lawyers say some hotels won't rent hotels to local residents to avoid crime, prostitution, drug activity, and hotel parties.
Best Western did refund the couple.
A spokesperson for the hotel sent a statement writing:
“Each Best Western hotel is independently owned and operated, and has the ability to establish hotel policies that are reasonable and narrowly tailored to their local market. To the extent a hotel has guest related policies, they must not violate any local, state or federal laws.”