“A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS AND TRAVELERS,” WILLIAMSBURG’S URBAN COWBOY—IN ALL ITS 19TH CENTURY GLORY—IS QUICKLY BECOMING THE COOLEST B&B IN THE CITY
BY EVAN MONROE
Not that there were ever salad days when operating a hotel or bed-and-breakfast in New York City was a piece of cake, but the last half decade has brought a series of unprecedented challenges to small-scale Big Apple accommodations. The first was a 2011 New York State law that made it flatly illegal to rent apartments for less than 30 days. Intended to address non-taxpaying single-room-occupancy rentals, it also put a squeeze on B&Bs by requiring extra levels of certification and taxation in order for them to qualify. The second great challenge was the rise of Airbnb, which, even as it continues its ascendancy, dukes it out with provisions of the law, including its levying of fines up to $7,500 for violators. The result is—according to a study by Crain’s New York Business—a reduction in the number of B&Bs citywide by nearly 50% between 2011 and 2015. Brooklyn hasn’t seen subtractions quite that dramatic, but there’s no question that it’s a storm-tossed time to be in the trade.
As with so many entrepreneurial challenges, one solution to this dilemma lies in innovation, so a tip of the 10-gallon hat has to go to Lyon Porter, the owner of the Williamsburg townhouse B&B Urban Cowboy, opened in April 2014 on a 25 x 100 lot. Looking for all the world like an ultra-refined bunkhouse, its rough-hewn, wide-plank floors, exposed beams, open interior spaces, and abundance of antlers produce an effect that the 35-year-old proprietor described as an “Industrial Williamsburg/Adirondack/Cowboy Sensibility.” However complicated a description is required, the impression is one of certainly not being in Brooklyn, and light years from accommodations like the nearby Wythe Hotel. Inspired by the Nicaraguan surf camp-turned boutique resort Maderas Village, Urban Cowboy, though it has private rooms, embraces in part a communal living space philosophy, and has likewise, according to Lyon, “evolved into a community of travelers and artists.” Response was so gratifying that Lyon opened another in Nashville, Tennessee, repurposing a Queen Anne Victorian mansion for the project.
Accommodations range from smallish one-bedrooms such as the Dream Catcher ($125 per night) to the larger and more design-expressive Lone Ranger and Peace Pipe, culminating in the separated Kanoono Cabin in the property’s backyard ($400 per night).
111 Powers Street / 347.840.0525 / urbancowboybnb.com