The Hotel Bethlehem has opened a 5,000-square-foot executive conference center just up the block from the main hotel across from Donegal Square.
Bruce Haines, managing partner of the hotel, said the center is either an initial foray into larger expansion plans that were nixed a couple of years ago, or a smaller substitute – depending on what the future holds – and he’s not sure yet what that will be.
Either way, Haines believes the conference center at 531 Main St. is going to benefit both the hotel and businesses in the area. The center has one large room that can sit around 80 people and five break-out rooms.
The hotel is leasing the second-floor space from the Institute of Restorative Practices. It is designed to host retreats or off-site meetings for between 20 and 80 people.
Back in 2017, Haines had announced a $36 million plan to double the size of the historic hotel and add parking, but later dropped the plan citing a number of roadblocks, including a lack of support from the city.
“This could be a bridge to the larger conference space or it could be in lieu of it,” he said.
While he hasn’t ruled out those plans, he believes the leased space is a perfect addition to a boutique hotel like Hotel Bethlehem.
The ballrooms in the main hotel, he noted, can be a bit cavernous for smaller meetings, as they were designed to hold around 200 people.
While the space is smaller, and a block away from the main hotel, Haines said it is still full-service and has an on-site kitchen to serve the same breakfast and lunch items that would be served during a business function at the main hotel.
And, he said, the short walk to the space could be appealing.
He said businesses scheduling off-site retreats are looking for experiences for their employees.
“Walking between the hotel and the conference center is an opportunity to explore Main Street and the shops. This should boost Main Street shopping by getting guests to leave the hotel,” he said.
This isn’t the hotel’s first foray beyond its main building. Last year the hotel moved its Hotel B Ice Cream Shop across the street so it and the hotel’s shop could expand.