Lehigh Valley

City shuts down luxury Airbnb in Bethlehem

Owners are fighting back

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A fight is brewing in Bethlehem over an Airbnb in the city.

Officials shut it down, but the owners claim they did nothing wrong, and are not backing down.     

Jay Brew and his wife, Dr. Mary Ellen Williams, opened an Airbnb on East Market Street in Bethlehem, but Monday they got a cease and desist letter from the city saying they have to shut it down.

"What we found with 258 East Market Street is that they are operating a commercial business in a residential neighborhood and so it all comes down to zoning," said Alicia Miller Karner, director of the Department of Community and Economic Development.

But the owners of the luxury property say they followed all the rules.

"I can't figure that one out because essentially we had emailed the city and said, 'Are there any regs on the city?' and they emailed back and said, 'not at this time,'" Brew said.

Although there are other Airbnbs in the city, Alicia Miller Karner said people who live in the neighborhood are concerned about this one.

"There are different kinds of Airbnbs and so what has been brought to our attention is the model that Airbnb is going towards now is a very hotel-like model," she said.

Brew and his wife say they have to approve the people who stay there and they won't give up getting the place back open.

"It makes you kind of sad but at the same time we are ready for a fight," he said. "We are going to go to the zoning board and argue our case."

"They can appeal the zoning officers decision to the zoning hearing board within the next 30 days and have their case heard," Miller Karner said.

The couple held an open house for their long-term rentals at the former Airbnb. Chandi Lowry will have much more on that part of the story Tuesday night on 69 News at 10.

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