Lincoln Best Western shoots for the stars – all five of them

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[February 08, 2019] 


If all goes well within the next year or so, the Lincoln Best Western will achieve Five Star status and will be the only motel in the community to have such a superior rating. It is a goal of the owners Sam Bhatt and Bobby Dave to bring the motel up to the highest quality standards by offering more amenities to its customers.

As a part of that goal, last week the Best Western received its liquor license from the city of Lincoln. The immediate goal at the motel is to establish a portable bar that will be brought out in the evenings to accommodate guests.

Later this year, the owners plan to build a new addition onto the motel between the current structure and the Lincoln American Legion. Inside will be a lounge and small restaurant. Finishing that project will give them four-and-a-half stars. When they add an enclosure for the swimming pool they will then have all the required amenities for the five star rating.

A small slice of the breakfast area that can also be used as the lounge for the portable bar in the near future.

The portable bar, Bhatt said, would or could be used in a variety of ways. For regular business, the bar will be rolled out in the evenings and can be placed in the lobby or the breakfast area that goes practically unused after 10 a.m. each day. He said guests can come into the area, enjoy a drink while sitting at the tables, or they can grab a free cup of coffee and visit with friends or other guests. If there is some type of private party, the bar can be moved to the motel conference room, or even taken outside for a larger gathering.

Bhatt and Dave have owned the motel since July of 2018 and have been continually working to improve the business, always with the goal of achieving that five star status.

Those who have known the motel and its history know that the establishment has undergone many positive changes over the last several years. Transforming to a motel that is now one of the nicest in the community began with former owner Parish Patel. When Patel purchased the motel several years ago, he began immediately re-vamping the entire business, making it into a high quality and very attractive three-star business.

The new owners Bhatt and Dave therefore had a very good base to start.

When the two men purchased the business they broke one of their own ownership rules, but according to Bhatt, it was well worth it. Bhatt explained recently that he is part of a small network of investors who partner to purchase motels. There are a number of investors, and when a property comes up for sale they talk among themselves to determine if there are at least two of them who are interested in partnering to take on the new venture.

Bhatt said one rule they have always gone by is that they only purchase properties within a one-hour drive from the home of one of the partners. For Bhatt, home is in Chicago, and he owns with partners motels in Chicago and also in Indiana.

Bhatt said that when the Best Western in Lincoln came up for sale it was a three-hour drive from his home to the business. However, he was drawn to the property because of the history of the community. He noted that a big selling point for him was that the world’s largest covered Wagon, the Railsplitter Covered Wagon, would be in his front yard. In addition, the wagon served as a link to the rest of the Lincoln community that is so rich in Abraham Lincoln history. He said he saw the great potential of offering a top ranked motel, the only one off of the south exit from the interstate, and the one that is getting a lot of exposure due to the wagon, to tourists traveling in search of Lincoln history, and also Route 66 history.

He said that he and Dave bought the property and began right away setting their goals for the five star ranking. To date, he said they have invested $180,000 in upgrading the motel. The rooms are being re-done one or two at a time. Bhatt said that it is a slow process because they can’t shut down too many rooms at a time. But, he added that doing the upgrades is an important part of maintaining a quality motel.

One of two styles of hot tub room.

In room amenities include refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot and television.

Hot tub room with corner garden tub.

Rooms include comfortable seating.

The rooms that have been redone are beautiful. Bhatt said he personally doesn’t like wallpaper, so walls have been stripped and new paint schemes have been put in. There are also plans to upgrade the televisions in all the rooms.

The workout area.

To achieve the five-star rating, in addition to lovely rooms, the motel needs to offer a conference space, which it already has; a workout room, which it already has; and a spa, which is currently a work in progress.

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Best Western owners Sam Bhatt (left) and Bobby Dave.

The spa massage area is open, but still technically a work in progress.

The spa is open and available with a massage table and masseuse by appointment, but Bhatt said there is still work to do to finish off the area. The motel must also offer an elevator, which is one of the big improvements that Patel made on the motel years ago.

The motel must offer an all-season swimming pool and a lounge and restaurant. Bhatt said he has the swimming pool, but it is not enclosed. That is a project for the near future.

The lounge will eventually be a solid structure and will be called “Friends.” The lounge for guests and the public, will offer food and drink.

Asked if he and Dave also plan to offer video gaming, Bhatt said that gaming was not something they had even considered. He said the liquor license was all about getting that fifth star.

The green space between the two utilities poles is part of the Best Western property. The strip runs from Lincoln Parkway to the back end of the property and is a great location for a strip mall.

In addition to upgrading the ranking at the motel, Bhatt and Dave have a bigger vision for their property. The purchase of the motel came with several acres of land that the partners plan to develop offering a gas station/convenience store and a strip mall. Bhatt said that the strip mall would be small niche’ businesses that would cater to tourists passing through, as well as overnight guests at the motel. He noted a sandwich shop or ice cream store or both could be among the possibilities.

Bhatt said with the motel in the location it is, travelers lack choices within walking distance of their room. For some who are driving larger vehicles, or those who have been behind the wheel all day, being able to walk to a variety of locations is desirable. Bhatt said that he and Dave have $5 million to invest in developing the property.

He added that he personally has no interest in owning and operating a large restaurant. However, if someone else wanted to own a restaurant on his property, it would certainly be worth considering.

Noting that the majority of the businesses that cater to travelers are on the west side of town, Bhatt said that what he and Dave have planned will make this south entry into Lincoln more attractive and more visitor friendly. He said that the goal is not to compete with what is already in that area, but to complement it with a variety of offerings that will keep travelers in the area for a longer period of time.

Bhatt also noted that competition is good for everyone, and that bringing more into the city will make it more attractive to all.

When the work is all done at the motel, Bhatt said there will be additional staff hired, which could be helpful to the local economy. He also envisions up to another 100 jobs offered through the development of the property, again, a good thing for the local economy.

All in all, Bhatt and Dave are very excited about what they are doing in Lincoln. They are looking forward to having that five star ranking and being able to give travelers an extremely comfortable and traveler friendly environment on the city’s south side.

The Best Western offers large rooms with king beds. There are regular rooms and hot tub rooms. They offer pet friend accommodations and also have ADA accessible rooms.

The motel offers the gym, spa, a personal laundry area where guests can do their own laundry, free breakfast and a snack and soda area.

The ‘Honeymoon suite’ also known as the Blue Room is extra-large and offers a hot tub as well.

The motel offers a beautiful ‘honeymoon suite’ also known as the blue room, and a large and comfortable lobby that also features a “business center” with a computer desk and internet access. There is also internet access in the rooms.

A view of the lobby from the upstairs balcony.

Look for more big things to come from the Lincoln Best Western. Bhatt said that as they work to achieve all these goals, there will certainly be opportunities for the community to come out and help them celebrate their achievements.

[Nila Smith]

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