Sincerely, BLLA

Notoriety: The Downtown Clifton Hotel

The BLLA Team sits down with Moniqua Lane, Owner of The Downtown Clifton Hotel, as she dives into the vision of her hotel and what it means to be bou...

The BLLA Team sits down with Moniqua Lane, Owner of The Downtown Clifton Hotel, as she dives into the vision of her hotel and what it means to be boutique.

BLLA: What is the mission statement of your boutique hotel?

ML: “Mission Statement: Our mission is to provide both a point of departure and a place of refuge for the independent-minded traveler interested in getting to know and love Southern Arizona generally and downtown Tucson, particularly. 

“Vision: We love Tucson, whole-heartedly and genuinely, and when our guests stay with us, we want them to be caught up in that love such that they want to come back and visit Tucson again. Our aim is to share with our guests the stories, flavors, sights, sounds, and people of our borderlands region through highly personalized staff and community interactions, and to foster each guest’s personal experience with the food, drink, decor, attractions, and activities that make downtown Tucson and the Southern Arizona region unique and interesting.”

BLLA: Why are you excited to be a member of BLLA?

ML: “BLLA was a lifeline for me during the early days of the pandemic. Fran and Ariela are a kick-ass couple of women who opened their hearts and resources to me and my hotel during a time of need (not only had the pandemic just started, but I was also sitting on a brand new, but empty hotel expansion that tripled my previous room count). As I participated more in BLLA, I realized that I wasn’t special, that these ladies did this for all BLLA members. They were just doing their jobs, leading BLLA as an inclusive and supportive professional community for the boutique hotel developers and operators. When you combine their passion with their reach and resources in the industry generally, BLLA is just an invaluable resource to boutique hotels particularly.”

BLLA: Why is community so important to this niche in hospitality?

ML: “I don’t know that community is so important to this niche, honestly. I think words like community, local, place-making, authentic, etc. are easy and accurate terms that hotels in this space have used to distinguish themselves from flagged national and multinational brands, but this has all become unfortunately very muddied with the rise of Airbnb and the proliferation of soft brands, independent brands and other niche brands of the large flags. I think what is important for boutique hotel operators is to figure out how to continue to distinguish themselves, however that may be, in a very crowded market. For example, the Downtown Clifton, at 30 rooms, is nestled deep in the heart of two of Tucson’s oldest and most historic residential neighborhoods. When I first opened it, I described the hotel as “a little hotel for the neighborhood.” That’s true to this day. The Downtown Clifton is a neighborhood hotel —  a hotel that operates in the style of a neighborhood bar. That’s what that hotel is known for. By contrast, my second hotel, the 10-room Citizen Hotel, five blocks north on the same street, technically in the same neighborhood, is focused on the Southern Arizona wine experience. Likewise, our beloved colleagues up the street, the historic 40-room Hotel Congress, is focused on providing a vibrant music, dining, and nightlife experience. The independent Hotel McCoy down the street from us has begun to make a name for itself as a hub of the local arts scene. Are there communities around all these hotels and their animating concepts? Sure. In that sense, community is or may be important, but what these hotels have in common and, I think is more important, is the ability to focus on doing whatever it is they do very creatively and well. So, that’s all a very long way of saying that I think community is easier to foster and enjoy at many boutique hotels just based on their size and operational flexibility and that’s a great thing, but I think it is not a sine qua non of boutique hotels.”

BLLA: How does your boutique hotel work with the local environment?

ML: “As I’d mentioned above, The Downtown Clifton is a neighborhood hotel. The Red Light Lounge, the hotel’s lobby bar and restaurant, is a neighborhood bar inside a neighborhood hotel. We are located in the most residential part of downtown Tucson; neighbors refer to it as the Barrio’s living room. In that sense, and I think that’s the most important sense, we don’t work with the local environment. We just act like any other neighbor: we lend a set of wine glasses or cup of cream for your coffee when asked. Yes, we’ll watch your dog when you go out of town. We bring back the patio set we borrowed. We let you stay in our guest room when you’re swamp cooler goes out during monsoon and we tell who made our furniture so you can have some just like it. We remember your anniversary, and we set a special table and may even make a cake for your spouse’s birthday dinner. We are neighbors.

“In the commercial sense, we work with the local (and here I mean downtown) business community through our key holders’ club. Guests at the hotel get discounts at local businesses that we love: Five Points Market & Restaurant, Penca, The Coronet, Good Oak, MAST, Fox and Rialto Theatres, Sand-Reckoner Wines, Owls Club, etc. But because our mission is to provide a launchpad for people who want to know and love downtown Tucson the way we do, we also work very hard to collaborate with and actively promote businesses that aren’t a part of our key holders club. So, we never talk about downtown Tucson without talking about Hotel Congress and sending our own guests to experience what they do. We partner with the Jazz Festival on hosting off-season events. We donate packages to the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Arts and host post-opening receptions for them and the Arizona Theatre Company (both businesses are a block away from us). We announce programming and menu changes on KXCI the local radio station. We’re open to working with the local business community however they’ll have us.”

BLLA: Why do you believe in the boutique movement?

ML: “The creative and operational freedom that the boutique (and also independent) movement supports allows for a diversity of individual properties reflective of the true diversity of the American travel experience.”

The Downtown Clifton Hotel is a member of BLLA.

BLLA is an association that unifies the creators and believers of the boutique hospitality industry. It is a launching pad for the best in boutique to gather and disrupt the status quo.

To join this growing and global community, take a look at the different levels of membership!

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