During the middle ages in England, laws pertaining to inns and taverns favored guests. The most cited reason for such stringent laws was that innkeepers often colluded with robbers and in many instances helped to rob their guests. While today's innkeepers are in a different league than their medieval counterparts, they were still held in low regard by both the law and the public as late as the 1800s. Even today, most of the common law regulations protecting guests are still in effect. The rationale of legislators in allowing these archaic rules to remain on the books is probably the fact that as long as innkeepers are honest, then the old laws will not affect them.
Even though many times hotels will provide dining areas for guests, rules governing restaurateurs are generally different than those governing hotelers. A major difference is that restaurateurs have no duty to receive all persons who are in a presentable condition and are able to pay for services while hotelers must provide shelter. This allows more leeway to restaurateurs who are able to set dress codes, establish house rules, and set their business hours with great freedom. It is important to note that many state laws have changed some common-law requirements and traditions.
Both restaurants and inns are subject to regulation under the police power of the state. Many states delegate the responsibility of regulating inns and restaurants to administrative bodies or agencies such as a state hotel and restaurant commission, or a state board of health. Restaurants and inns are not public utilities, and may not be subject to the regulations of a public service commission unless they are acting as agents for a public utility. The general requirement for state regulations on inns and restaurants is "reasonableness."
Most states require restaurant and inn owners to apply for and receive a license to operate such facilities. Licensing regulations must not be arbitrary, unreasonable, or discriminatory to be valid.
Generally speaking, there is a mutual relationship implied between patrons and owners consisting of reciprocal obligations and duties. The owner is under a duty to furnish proper accommodations, and to exercise proper care for the safety and tranquility of the guest, while the guest must exercise due care to refrain from any boisterous or otherwise distrustful or offensive conduct.
An innkeeper is under an additional duty to receive and entertain all persons who offer themselves as guests, unless he or she has some reasonable grounds for refusal. The extent of what an innkeeper or restaurant owner may reasonably consider in denying a customer access to her establishment is limited by civil rights statutes: Owners are prohibited from refusing to accommodate or entertain persons on account of their race, color, religion, or national origin.
Both hotels and restaurants are governed by Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code as far as the services they render. The express and implied warranties apply to both hotel rooms and food items served in restaurants. But most of the law governing hospitality stems from case law. See Commercial law for more information about Article 2 of the U.C.C.
menu of sources
U.S. Constitution and Federal Statutes
- Various sections of the following titles of the U.S Code affect operation of the hotel and restaurant industries:
- CRS Annotated Constitution
- Various sections of the following titles (as well as others) of the Code of Federal Regulations affect operation of thehotel and restaurant industries:
- U.S. Supreme Court:
- U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals: Recent Decisions on Hotels and Restaurants
State Judicial Decisions
- N.Y. Court of Appeals:
- Appellate Decisions from Other States
Key Internet Sources
- Federal Agencies:
Useful Offnet (or Subscription - $) Sources
- Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly (back issues are searchable and can be ordered by fax or mail)
- LII Downloads