Short-term business housing is, in general, not renowned for its beauty or excitement — which is likely why Airbnb’s investment in Lyric last month seemed like something of an outside entry path into the hotel industry the firm was launched to disrupt.
Particularly because Lyric’s ideas about entering the world of short-term rentals are quite different from the other sharing economy-type players that came before. Lyric is not a firm looking to ask for forgiveness rather than permission when it comes to entering new markets in the way Uber and the various firms it inspired have.
“We are really good at regulatory compliance,” Lyric Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kitchell said in an interview with Bloomberg. The startup is fully compliant in all 13 cities it operates in, he said. “We don’t sneak into cities or buildings, we walk in the front door and we introduce ourselves.”
That openness and compliance as a policy, Kitchell noted, is good business as well as good practice, as it assures that Lyric doesn’t run the risk that it will encounter the same sorts of difficulties its new investor Airbnb has in cities like New York. Washington D.C. and San Francisco, where local city councils and even state legislatures that have entertained “anti-Airbnb bills” that seek to limit how often they can rent out properties through the platform, and for how long.
As a result of these kinds of past scrapes, real estate firms and building owners are hesitant about short-term rentals as a concept, which means a lot of Lyric’s entry pitch is about changing minds on the subject. But the persuasive route has been a winner — if not a speedy one — for the firm. As of today Lyric has short-term rental permits in Austin and Nashville, is the only company licensed to operate short-term rentals in Orlando and has partnerships with 20 of America’s top real estate firms, Kitchell said.
It is also on the verge of opening its first location in America’s biggest city, New York.
The new New York location will be Lyic’s largest to date — and offer up 132 suites on the third through sixth floors of the 67-story art deco landmark tower. The space was formerly the Q&A Residential Hotel by Furnished Quarters, and Lyric will operate under the standard hotel license, inherited from the Q&A.
“Hotel rooms historically have given people really a bed and TV and not a lot more,” said Lyric President and Co-Founder Joe Fraiman. “We think that travelers today want a lot more than that.”
The “more than that” additions are upgraded versions of features that are common in short-term housing geared toward business travelers. Kitchenettes are full kitchens at Lyric properties, and living rooms come with visually pleasing modern furnishings. Rooms are additionally stocked with extra hip details, like pour-over coffee from local roasters, locally-produced art and vinyl records. The rooms planned for the city range from 500-square-foot studios to 1,400-square-foot one-bedroom apartments and are priced like a 4-star hotel room would be in their host city. A Chicago apartment goes for about $242 per night on, and the rooms in New York will range from $200 to $500 per night.
And beyond all the in-house offerings, what Lyric hopes to offer is something of a hybrid of the homesharing and hotel approach to travel lodging. Accommodations should feel like a home, according to Lyric, especially for business travelers — but also feel as certain and sure as a hotel stay when it comes to quality expectations. Lyric, Fraiman said, thinks it has found a way to successfully strike that balance.
“We think of Lyric as a network of accommodation spaces that are designed for the modern business traveler,” Fraiman said. “When they travel they don’t just want a place to sleep, but they want to be connected to the local community. They don’t just want to stay in a soulless hotel in Times Square; they want to be in a more interesting part of the city.”