It's that time of year again....annual city inspections. Yes, each year our bed & breakfast undergoes a City of Chicago inspection as a part of our license renewal. The inspection includes and on-site review by the Chicago Fire Department. Fire extinguishers are checked for current year service tags (an outdated yellow inspection tag is a tell tale sign of no recent inspection). Of particular interest are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Of course each must be in working order. Additionally, fire safety evacuation maps must be posted in each guest room. The Department of Buildings inspects our physical structure for soundness and maintenance to identify issues that could affect public safety. These protections are all part and parcel of staying in a licensed B&B. As yourself if the vacation rental you found on Craigslist or AirBNB affords the same piece of mind. At House 5863, we take your safety seriously and are proud to undergo an annual inspection so that you know we are not only a comfortable but also a safe place to stay in Chicago.
We love hearing from you. Please continue to send your notes and cards. They are great and we always get a thill from receiving them. Online reviews are okay, but nothing conveys a thought like a good old fashioned letter or card. Thanks again.
Located within walking distance of our bed and breakfast is a great Chicago dive bar called Edgewater Lounge. The place is a gem. Unexpectedly, you will also find that it has some of the best food around and at bargain prices. Check out this video. Our favorite is the beef brisket sandwich and sweet potato chips. They often have unique and awesome soups that are one of a kind. Oh, and yea, its also a bar with tons of great craft beers on tap and it features live music (no cover!) on Tuesdays. Don't let the outside fool you... stop in and find a true Chicago hangout.
The Chicago Spring Flower Show is now open at the Lincoln Park Conservatory through May 12, 2013. Our bed and breakfast is just a short train ride to the conservatory. Enjoy spring!
Although for many decades travelers have been welcomed into the homes of relatives and friends and offered the couch as a cheap place to stay, it was not until this decade that this tried and true option was revolutionized by the internet. With the advent of Craigslist, Airbnb, and similar sites, almost anyone and everyone is offering up couches, spare bedrooms and even entire homes for rent as a hotel alternative. While the notion of renting a room in a friendly owner’s home may at first glance seem appealing economically, there are a few words of caution to be offered before you jump in head first.
Renting such accommodations pose risks to both pocketbook and safety. Here is why.
Hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns are almost universally regulated by local governmental authorities. Local statutes provide for minimum safety and health requirements. Establishments must has work smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, operating fire extinguishers, emergency exit lighting, and posted fire exit plans. I operate a B&B here in Chicago and can personally attest to the fact that each year we get a thorough inspection by the fire department, by the department of buildings, and by the department of health. If we don’t take appropriate measures to protect the safety and health of our guests, we do not get to operate.
Now compare those protections to what you get when you rent a night on a stranger's couch. Has that stranger devoted the same concern and resources to your safety and health? Do you know what you would do in a fire? How would you get out? Is there anyone on-site that can help you in an emergency? Is the location, building and apartment you are renting safe? Remember, you are staying in an unfamiliar city in an unconventional alternative to a hotel, motel or B&B. Ask yourself if the potential savings is truly worth the additional risks posed.
You should also be extremely alert for the potential financial pitfalls of renting such accommodations. If you send money to a stranger you found on the internet, is there going to actually be a place for you to stay when you arrive? Sites such as Craigslist are fertile ground for scam artists of all types. They will often go to great lengths to make their scams appear legitimate with wonderful photos of fantastic abodes near all the sites and available just when you are looking to travel and at unbelievable prices. Beware, they are often adept at making you part with your money. Check out the business and ask for references. Legitimate places to stay in most cities like Chicago has a website, a Facebook page, are on Google+, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Determine how you will get a refund if all is not as promised. Because of recent scams and problems with unregulated vacation rentals, many jurisdictions have adopted new local laws that require registration and licensing. Check the locale you intend to visit and check with the local tourism bureau or visitors center for further information.
Traveling to a new city is always an adventure. Make it a pleasurable, memorable one by heeding these few words of caution.
One of the many things I love about living in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago is that the local shops offer a unique shopping opportunity where you can always expect the unexpected. Yesterday, I had the chance to pop in to Brownstone Antiques and Collectibles at 5234 N Clark Street. What greeted me at the door was indeed a one-of-a-kind find: two 5 foot tall Indian chief lamps. They are simply awesome and I struggled all day to think of who among my friends would just have to have them. Unfortunately, I came up empty handed. But I want someone to have them and give them a good home for the next 75 years of their life. They are just too cool not to be shared.
The shops of Andersonville frequently offer opportunities to find objects like no other. Here, there are few chains and instead we have a collective of merchants that are devoted to bringing the community and our visitors that special gift like no other.
Shop local. Shop Andersonville.
Ok, just a few thoughts that I want to share about lodging and hotel alternatives in Chicago. Recently, there has been an explosion of available options. You may have heard of AirBnB.com or you may have come across one of the many advertisements placed on the vacation rentals section of Craigslist. It seems as though everyone has a couch or a condo to rent by the night or week. In large part, this has been driven by both the need for alternatives and present market conditions in real estate.
I found it interesting to learn about the impetus behind AirBnB while at a Inman conference in San Francisco. The idea was launched by several guys who literally wanted to see if there was a market for renting an air mattress to area visitors. Well, there was and the site took off from there. Now AirBnB has vacation rentals around the world. Similarly, even a cursory review of Craigslist vacation rentals will reveal hundreds of lodging options from a lowly couch to luxurious condominiums with all the benefits of home away from home.
I must offer a few words of caution to those considering one of these two alternatives. First, know what you are getting. Ask if the party you are renting from is reputable. Are you turning your money over to a stranger? What protections do you have? What would you do if you arrive and the property is not available, is not as described, or worse , the whole thing is a scam. Craigslist is replete with those offering multiple ways to help you part with your money. Is the property safe, secure, etc...
In Chicago, as of 2011, vacation rentals must be licensed. Ask for that information before you do business with any rental property owner. And, that goes for AirBnB rentals as well. Just because they are listed on that site doesn't mean they are licensed. MANY MANY MANY rental operators are not licensed and by doing business with them you are at risk.
A better alternative is to consider one of Chicago's many Bed & Breakfast options. Chicago licenses all B&Bs and to get this license, the establishment has to undergo a thorough inspection by the buildings depatment and the Chicago Fire Department. Each year the properties are re-inspected. Additionally, reputable B&Bs are members of the Chicago Bed & Breakfast Assciation http://www.chicago-bed-breakfast.com. Check with that group to find links to all Chicago B&Bs.
Chicago has many alternatives to the traditional hotel, but exercise caution in making your choices. Always ask if the benefit of saving a few dollars is woth the risk of a ruined vacation or visit.
If you are visiting Chicago soon and staying with House 5863 bed & Breakfast, the Chamber of Commerce has an excellent web site where you can get a lot of useful information about our neighborhood and upcoming events.
House 5863 is not your typical B&B. We are different. Here you will find no Victorian decor or rockers on a scenic porch. Rather, we are an urban, hip place to stay in the heart of Chicago's north side. Our style is contemporary comfort. Our rooms are clean, cool and most of all restive Our approach is more hands off than hands on. We focus on providing for all of your needs behind the scenes without disrupting your stay. Common areas are designed for casual living. The fully-equipped kitchen offers continental style breakfast with all the basics to allow you to serve yourself on your own schedule and at your own pace. Our garden and deck areas offer a quiet respite for relaxed joy.