One Year Inn: Short’s Brewing and a Workforce Housing Experiment

Dynamic view of Bellaire Inn, a 26 unit motel used for workforce housing
Dynamic view of Bellaire Inn

Bellaire, Mich. – Locally known as champions of community development, in 2022 Short’s Brewing decided to face Northern Michigan’s seasonal housing & workforce crisis head on: by purchasing an inn. 

“Even we were surprised, but as we were looking down a very busy summer and had employees leave the area because of the lack of affordable housing, we had to do something.” Scott Newman-Bale, CEO for the brewery stated. “This Workforce Housing model is fairly common in larger resort towns. We attempted to subsidize the rent of our employees by offering a limited number of vacation-rental rooms but in the end demand for staff housing left few openings.”

Photo showing clean, bright Inn room with two neatly-made beds for workforce housing.
Photo of hotel-style bathroom vanity
Photo showing various seating near a hotel room window

The brewery is no stranger to property development and management, having acquired, renovated, leased, and sold many buildings in Bellaire and Elk Rapids over their 20 year history. (They even owned the Bellaire Post Office, but sold it to finance the Inn.)

“I have lived at the Inn for over a year. There is a shared kitchen and game room—it’s been fun meeting new people and building friendships.” Drake Manwaring, an employee of Short’s Bellaire Pub stated, “The Inn is a great place to stay, I’d recommend it to anyone needing “affordable” housing.”

This past summer the brewery was able to take advantage of the J1 program, a type of work-study program for students from around the world where they develop skills and experience another country’s culture. Nine J1 workers came for three months from places like Jamaica, China, Turkey, Jordan and Kazakhstan. Cultural experiences for the students ranged from concerts, local festivals and water activities on Torch Lake.

“Without the Bellaire Inn, we probably would have had to close one or two days a week. We never would have been able to support this program, let alone our summer business levels, without it.” Newman-Bale concluded.

Scott Newman-Bale shares some stats from their first year of ownership:

Bellaire Inn Stats:
Number of rooms : 26, including the full-time innkeeper.
Number of rooms rented to employees, summer : 22
Number of rooms rented to employees, current : 5
Average cost per week : $115 per week rate for employees (below-market rate for non-employees)
Average length of stay : 3-5 months

Most surprising part? Being landlords. We’ve had some damage, but overall everyone is very respectful. We’ve also hosted traveling workers from nurses to construction workers to teachers, while they’re here they spend time and money in our communities.

Toughest part? Being prepared for anything and everything that could happen. Leaky toilets, fire alarms going off, resident issues, you name it. 

Any advice? When times get tough, get creative. We weren’t planning on purchasing the inn, but it saved our summer in so many ways.

Other plans in the works? We’re working with some friends on another Workforce Housing project of 100+ units in Bellaire under a mile from the Pub. The project is still in its early stages, but expect an announcement soon!

For more info on the Bellaire Inn, visit:

Aerial photo of the Bellaire Inn showing the surrounding area