Jim Rasor knows Royal Oak.
"I was a city commissioner from 2009 to 2013, and during that time, we were confronting two problems," Rasor, the well-known Royal Oak-based attorney, told Pride Source. "The first was we had a bunch of old motor inns that were producing a large amount of EMS calls. They were being used as long-term housing, and they were not great. The other problem we had is that we didn't have a quality hotel in the community. We had to rely on other communities' hotels for events. And that was a bad situation."
Just three months after Rasor left office, the Royal Oak Motor Inn on 11 Mile Road came on the market.
"We assessed the property and purchased it," said Rasor. "It needed everything. It was a great deal financially, but everything that could be worn out was worn out. We replaced and renovated everything and reimagined it as a boutique hotel.
The final product, Hotel Royal Oak, embraces its mid-century charm while offering guests distinctly 21st-century amenities. "Using those motor lodge bones, we came up with a real hit," Rasor continued. "It's got that 1950s motor lodge, drive up right in front of your door, big layout kind of thing. But it has completely modern amenities, Bluetooth keys, no-contact registration and the conveniences that the modern traveler needs."
William Steiner of the Lambda Car Club, who participates in car shows held at the property, said Rasor has done a great job updating the hotel. "It looks fresh and attractive, and the furnishings and fixtures in the rooms all give a nod to the building's original mid-century-modern roots," he said.
Outside, Hotel Royal Oak offers plenty of entertainment and leisure space — over an acre. There's live music on Saturdays and classic car shows on Sundays. The hotel is planning to bring in a DJ on Fridays and is in search of just the right drag queen to steal the stage now and then.
"A lot of the programming that takes place at the hotel is my own personal [taste]," said Rasor. "I like to do stuff when I go out. I'm not the type to go sit in a bar." As a self-described "LGBTQ boomer," Rasor's tastes these days lean more toward a quieter social scene. "It's not my schtick to go out to a bar and stay until 2 o'clock in the morning," he explained.
Much of Rasor 's approach to entertainment at the hotel is aimed at appealing to others who share his mindset. He said he brought in Jenga Giant, cornhole and ring toss basketballs – competition games. "There's more of that coming," he promised. "People like to sit and chat, but they also like to be involved in activities together."
So far, Rasor's ideas are proving popular.
"People are starting to rave about the Cars & Coffee on Sundays," Rasor said. "And we're launching an industry night on Sunday with a DJ where we're going to give industry workers half off rooms in gratitude for working through this pandemic and taking care of all of us."
Steiner endorses the car shows at the hotel enthusiastically, describing the atmosphere as more of a backyard party than a typical cruise-in. Visitors enjoy an expansive, grassy area with seating in the center of the court, a space that encourages socializing. "The motor court of an old motel is a natural setting for a car display, and because the court is surrounded by the building on three sides, the space feels intimate," he said.
"Jim Rasor is a great host," Steiner added. "He enthusiastically greets everyone who shows up to display or observe, and he genuinely wants people to enjoy themselves while they're there."
Steiner said that all car owners, himself included, "LOVE to talk about their cars to anyone who's interested." Cars & Coffee is an ideal opportunity for this kind of car enthusiast chatter — Steiner described the typical crowd as "always very friendly."
Though all are welcome at the hotel, Rasor, himself openly gay, has an affinity for queer folk.
"We're very inclusive, and Hotel Royal Oak's crowd looks a lot like Royal Oak," he said. "Not just one demographic. It's a very heavily LGBTQ neighborhood, so organically, people from the neighborhood join us, and a lot of them are LGBTQ."
Hotel Royal Oak is located at 811 E. Eleven Mile Road in Royal Oak. For information or for event details, check out the hotel's website.