Hotels can be defined as commercial establishments that provide lodging and usually meals and other services for the public. The word “hotel” is in the common acceptance of the word synonymous with “inn,” especially an inn of the better class. The word “inn” at common law meant a place where a traveler is furnished with both lodging and entertainment, including food. Any places where transient guests are received and lodged are classified as hotels[i]. The proprietor of an inn or hotel is an innkeeper or hotelkeeper, respectively. It is not essential that a place to be a hotel shall provide food and drink to its guest in addition to lodging.
The status of a place of public accommodation as an inn or hotel is a question of fact and determined from the circumstances. The distinctive features of a hotel or an inn are that it receives transient guests and provides lodging. The character of a place as an inn or hotel is determined by the types of facilities available and services offered, and not by the type of structure or the surrounding property.
Establishments which furnish lodging to transients, although designated motels, may be deemed hotels. The word “motel” generally denotes a small hotel where lodgings are available for hire, with a minimum of personal service being furnished by the proprietor[ii]. While there is a certain similarity between inns and hotels, and boarding, lodging, and rooming houses, the two differ from each other in certain fundamental characteristics. The principal distinction is that in the case of boarding house, the proprietor deals with his or her customers individually with respect to terms and accommodations and exercises the right to reject any or all applicants at his or her pleasure, while in the case of inns and hotels the proprietor deals with the public generally on the basis of an implied contract and may not arbitrarily refuse to receive as a guest one who is entitled to be so received. A boardinghouse has also been said to differ from an inn or both in being less public in character and in arranging with its patrons to provide for them during some more or less definite period[iii]. The distinction at common law between an innkeeper and a boarding or lodging house keeper is that the innkeeper caters to the traveling public-the transient traveler. The lodging-house or boarding-house keeper, on the other hand, takes care of more permanent customers, who remain for longer periods and more or less permanently in the same place[iv].
An apartment hotel generally applies to buildings which contain nonhousekeeping apartments, wherein no cooking facilities are provided and the proprietor maintains a restaurant for the convenience of his guests and furnishes other service to them[v]. A hotel operated only as a health or pleasure resort, rather than for the entertainment of transients in the course of a journey, is not an inn. However, a resort facility offering sleeping accommodations to the public may meet the statutory definition of an “nnkeeper.” A restaurant is not an inn or a hotel. A restaurant has been defined as a place where refreshments, food, and drink are served. The essential difference between a restaurant and a hotel is that in restaurants, only food and drink are served, and lodging or shelter is not furnished. Likewise, a coffeehouse is also not an inn or a hotel.
[i] Dixon v. Robbins, 246 N.Y. 169 (N.Y. 1927).
[ii] Schermer v. Fremar Corp., 36 N.J. Super. 46 (Ch.Div. 1955).
[iii]Pierro v. Baxendale, 20 N.J. 17, 24 (N.J. 1955).
[iv] Brams v. Briggs, 272 Mich. 38 (Mich. 1935).
[v] Pitts v. Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, 160 Ohio St. 129 (Ohio 1953).