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Beaufort’s Iconic City Loft Hotel Finds Itself in a Coronavirus ‘Sweet Spot’

There haven’t been many things for businesses to smile about since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. From big-box retailers to main street mom & pops to the hospitality industry, it’s been just three seasons but the impacts have felt like a decade. Finding ways to sustain & adapt have been the primary goal of every business across the board, and sometimes that means finding a silver lining in unexpected places.

According to a recent article by the LA Times,, Corona may be providing an opportunity to a segment of the hospitality industry that has been, at times, considered a black sheep among insiders and travelers alike.

“Motels are having a moment. It’s a Coronavirus thing”, the article states.
“After many years of being looked down on, motels are getting new respect in the era of social distancing.
Guests at open-corridor inns may come and go without passing through crowded lobbies,
packed elevators or enclosed hallways where viruses may linger.”

“In outdoor corridors, people feel safe,” said Mike Riverside of the Asian American Hotel Owners Assn.
“People can go directly to their rooms” and potentially reduce exposure to the Coronavirus.
The article goes on to say “Outdoor-facing, low-rise motels and hotels also stand to benefit from being typically reached by car, unlike big resorts and urban hotels that rely on air travel to deliver most guests.
With many still apprehensive about flying, drive-to destinations are widely expected to be the first beneficiaries of the gradual return of pleasure jaunts away from home.”

“There is pent-up demand for leisure travel and nobody is too excited to share an elevator,” said Patrick Scholes, an analyst who follows the lodging and leisure industries for investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. “For the moment, it definitely does give you an advantage” to have outdoor corridors in your hotel.

Motels (a portmanteau contraction of “motor hotel”) are poised to offer exactly what would-be travelers are seeking. Ready to escape the cabin fever of months at home but weary of conventional travel, motels present a tantalizing option to excursionists – travel with a renewed sense of ease and safety.
Typically featuring open, exterior corridors, plein air stairwells and quick access to rooms directly from the
parking lot, motels now meet the exact needs of the cautious traveler.

Enter City Loft Hotel –

The current City Loft Hotel in downtown Beaufort, SC was once upon a time The Lord Carteret Motel. By boasting that glorious and regal name, it paid homage to THE Lord Carteret. Lord Carteret was an important member of the British group that so astutely declared the bountiful and beautiful lands and waterways they found themselves on be consecrated and sanctified as “Beaufort”, South Carolina.

At nightly rates of $12, $14 (and sometimes even $17), the motel’s rooms featured the finest wall to
wall carpet, private dressing rooms, FM radios and LOTS of red. LOTS. Built in the 1960’s,
she had a most admirable run for decades but eventually fell into disrepair and became
almost nothing more than a downtown eye-sore.

Then, in early 2007, current owner and native Beaufortonian, Matt McAlhaney decided he
saw much more in the dilapidated, neglected and utterly hopeless old building than just the
worn out, sad left-overs of a once wondrous motel that greeted most passers by.
His vision included a space with a modern aesthetic, modern in look but 100% home-grown
southern in hospitality. After all, in Beaufort, hospitality is as necessary as sweet tea.
That nod to modernism included a multi-million dollar facelift, a total re-imagining of the
usefulness of open exterior corridor lodgings and a campaign to showcase the property as the alternative to the stately but sometimes predictable antebellum-mansions-turned-B&B’s that line Beaufort’s historic streets. Fast forward to just over a decade later and Matt is still at it, meticulously contemplating every aspect of The City Loft Hotel, currently TripAdvisors #1 hotel recommendation in Beaufort and a 5 time winner of Tripadvisor’s “Best Small Hotels in the United States”. One thousand plus five star reviews, countless compliments and hundreds of personal interactions and new friendships later, CLH has shattered all expectations by perfectly situating itself between the charming hospitality of the south and the modern expectations of life in the 21st century.

Matt, as you might have assumed by now, didn’t let COVID stop the momentum of CLH.
While temporarily closed to guests, he and the staff took to envisioning and implementing
protocols to guarantee the very safest way to welcome guests back when the time was right.
With a clear understanding that the hotel’s original design presented a positive feature
during the pandemic, Matt, his wife Laura and their phenomenal staff were on a mission to promote the former motor court’s open-to-air corridors, rooms with fresh air pulled from individual air conditioning units and it’s poured concrete, self-contained rooms as an opportunity to keep guests safer than most modern day facilities. Open exterior corridors, plein air stairwells instead elevators, and a redesigned check in process within the parking lot itself were not only convenient features but efficient ones as well.
In addition, the staff incorporated a mist disinfecting system utilized on all hard surfaces in each room prior to guest check-in to and completely remade the seating area of the much loved, on-site coffee shop,(City Java & News) by moving most of it outside and into a most welcoming gathering spot.

City Loft Hotel has proven itself to not only posses the utmost respect and reverence
for the original motel from which it evolved but also a drive and desire to be a part of the
solution to the reality of the world in which we currently live and the many safety needs
associated with the Coronavirus. Striking a balance between the details of boutique
hotel life and the constraints of a pandemic that seems to have put the world on pause is part of the
ethos found at City Loft Hotel in historic Beaufort, South Carolina.


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