Hospitality

Our hospitality lawyers draw upon more than 50 years of dedicated industry experience to provide counsel to many of the world’s largest hotel brands and management companies, as well as some of the most successful hospitality investors and REITs.

Venable’s hospitality clients rely on our comprehensive real estate, transactional, franchise, regulatory, labor, litigation, tax, advertising, and intellectual property capabilities. We regularly represent our clients on all aspects of real estate development, financing, and construction. We also have extensive experience with structuring and negotiating all types of hospitality-focused commercial agreements involving management agreements, online distribution, hospitality service agreements, IP licensing and outsourcing, and brand protection.

Our hospitality lawyers have represented individual hospitality companies and industry groups on every major legislative and regulatory issue affecting the industry for more than 25 years. We understand that exceptional regulatory representation extends to data privacy and security matters, where our proactive approach helps to ensure the protection of the sensitive information of our clients and their customers. We provide advice on a wide range of advertising and marketing matters, including brand protection, regulatory compliance, multimedia promotions, and global trademark portfolios.

Venable’s recognized Labor and Litigation practices provide our hospitality clients with practical, effective advice on labor and employment matters, dispute resolution, litigation, and government investigations.

We also assist our hospitality clients with negotiating and implementing contractual agreements that affect day-to-day operations, and with structuring compliant employee benefits, health, and welfare plans that support company objectives.

Management Agreements

Our hospitality attorneys advise both hotel brands and management companies on structuring and negotiating hotel and other hospitality management agreements, and on restructuring ownership/management relationships.

Distributions, Agreements, and Outsourcing Transactions

Our attorneys regularly advise and negotiate online distribution agreements, IP licensing agreements, technology outsourcing arrangements, and brand protection for our hospitality clients. We also advise our clients on investments and partnerships with a focus on emerging technologies and platforms affecting the hospitality industry.

Food Service Facilities

We advise leading companies in the food service sector in connection with their restaurant facilities at airports and other transportation hubs, including corporate and joint venture structuring and negotiation with restaurant partners; brand licensing transactions; real estate leasing work with airports, aviation authorities, and other municipal organizations; procurement, vendor, IP licensing, and technology transactions with third parties; and commercial disputes.

Real Estate

We provide counsel to our hospitality clients in all areas related to the development, financing, and construction of new hotel projects. Our attorneys also work on the acquisition of operating hotels scheduled for rebranding, the negotiation of joint venture agreements, and the purchase and sale of hotels.

Franchising and Licensing

We serve as franchisee counsel for hospitality clients and provide advice on relicensing, renewals, and termination of franchises in connection with acquisitions, restructurings, or refinancing of existing hotels and hotel portfolios, and the development of new hotel properties.

Advertising, Marketing, and Brand Protection

We regularly partner with iconic hospitality brands to review advertising, marketing, and promotional campaigns, manage global trademark portfolios, and bring enforcement actions in various forums, including federal court, the Patent and Trademark Office, and self-regulatory groups. We provide advice on complex promotions and customer loyalty programs, including telemarketing compliance, loyalty program restructuring, challenges to competitors’ advertising, and government investigations.

Data Privacy

Venable’s nationally recognized Privacy Group addresses compliance counseling (including GDPR compliance), defense against investigations, response to data breach incidents, and cross-border data transfer for our hospitality clients. 

Tax

We provide important advocacy at all levels of government on a full range of tax issues that affect our hospitality clients. Venable tax attorneys also provide federal, state, local, and international tax advice to hospitality companies on a wide range of business transactions and structuring of assets and business lines.

Litigation

Venable’s litigation attorneys advise our hospitality clients on commercial matters, labor and employment, construction defects, advertising and unfair competition, class actions, and intellectual property disputes. We handle internal and government investigations, both in the courts and in arbitration and mediation.

Labor and Employment

Our hospitality clients rely on Venable’s labor attorneys for advice and representation on a wide range of labor issues, such as collective bargaining, defending against unfair labor practice charges, and challenging adverse labor decisions before the NLRB and federal courts. Our employment attorneys provide pragmatic counsel to our hospitality clients in the context of an inherently dynamic employment law landscape. 

Benefits

Our benefits attorneys work closely with our hospitality clients on identifying, structuring, and implementing compliant employee benefit plans. We counsel plan sponsors and their third-party administrators on operational issues, annual compliance requirements, and participant inquiries. We also regularly advise our hospitality clients on health and welfare benefit plans of all types.

Operations

With significant experience in almost every operational aspect of the lodging industry, we regularly counsel hospitality clients regarding all types of contractual agreements affecting day-to-day hotel operations.

Compliance

Working closely with our hospitality clients’ treasury and internal control functions, we develop client-responsive policies, procedures, and internal control and training regimes (both in-house and external); assist with risk assessment audits and internal investigations; and respond to regulatory and law enforcement inquiries.

Experience
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Transactional

  • Representing one of the world's largest hotel brands in the migration of its worldwide central reservations system
  • Participated in transactions on behalf of franchisors, with extensive experience involving more than 300 hotel properties
  • Managed a complex portfolio deal valued at $1.7 billion, involving more than 100 properties
  • Assisted a key player in the lodging and hospitality industry in the formation of a hospitality investment fund joint venture with other industry veterans
  • Represented Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Inc. in concluding an alliance agreement with a lifestyle brand to become the first upscale hotel brand to offer state-of-the-art wellness technologies to guests
  • Advised Wyndham on concluding a strategic alliance agreement with a national retailer to provide franchisees with the opportunity to streamline purchases of brand-standard furniture, fixtures, and design products

Litigation

  • Served as lead counsel in defense of GOCO Hospitality Global Opportunity, Inc., a leading international wellness hospitality company, in connection with a disputed ownership claim, obtaining a favorable verdict on all causes of action

Finance

  • Represented the controlling member and lead equity investor in the recapitalization of a national fast-casual restaurant brand, with stores in more than 25 locations throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
  • Served as co-counsel to a hotel owner/borrower in the refinancing of its construction loan facility for the SLS Hotel South Beach and in the subsequent sale of the hotel
  • Served as co-counsel to a hotel owner/borrower in the refinancing of its construction loan facility for the SLS Park Avenue in New York City
  • Served as co-counsel to a hotel owner/borrower in obtaining its construction loan facility for the SLS Hotel & Residences Brickell in Miami
  • Served as co-counsel to SBE Entertainment Group in the refinancing of its credit facility, the proceeds of which were used to redeem a former minority investor, retire existing debt, and fund working and growth capital

Real Estate

  • Representing more than half of the publicly registered REITs formed in Maryland
  • Represented Marriott International in all aspects of the company's planned development of its new global corporate headquarters, from site search to negotiation of proposed lease terms and assisting with state and county incentives process
  • Served as lead counsel in commercial real estate workouts totaling more than $30 billion since 2010
  • Served as co-counsel to the seller in connection with the sale of the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
  • Represented Ashford Hospitality Trust in its acquisition of the Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Yountville, California

Advertising, Marketing and Brand Protection

  • Advised Marriott International on its partnership with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Hamilton "Peggy" Tour, a deal in which Marriott made a substantial donation to Miranda's Flamboyan Arts Fund
  • Coordinated legal review and drafting associated with the launch of several worldwide promotional events following the merger of Marriott and Starwood, including a music festival series and YouTube channel—preparing associated terms and conditions, and providing advice on privacy, contracts, e-commerce, advertising/promotions, and other issues in the United States and abroad
  • Assisted a leading hospitality chain in launching a new rewards program for its luxury brand and a social media "insider" rewards program
  • Helped a hospitality client revamp its global trademark strategy, devising new approaches to its brand protection, clearance, filings, and enforcement strategies

Labor and Employment

  • Successfully defended Maryland Live! Casino against a class action lawsuit for unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Maryland law. Negotiated collective bargaining agreements for restaurant, hotel, theater, entertainment, and hospitality clients, including the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union

Recognition
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  • Chambers USA
    • Leisure & Hospitality, Nationwide, 2016 – 2022
    • Corporate/M&A (Band 1), Maryland, 2011 – 2022
    • Labor & Employment, Maryland, 2004 – 2022
    • Real Estate, Washington, DC, 2012 – 2022
  • U.S. News – Best Lawyers
    • Best Law Firms, Real Estate Law (Tier 1), National, 2011 – 2020, 2022  – 2023
    • Best Law Firms, Tax Law (Tier 1), National, 2017 – 2020, 2022
    • Best Law Firms, Corporate Law (Tier 1), National, 2011 – 2020
    • Best Law Firms, Mergers & Acquisitions Law (Tier 1), National, 2011 – 2020, 2022 – 2023
    • Best Law Firms, Commercial Litigation (Tier 1), National, 2022