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The Rowdy Factor – Some Motels Leery of Under-25s 4.26.2006

By Rick Racela

WILDWOOD -By age 25, you may have graduated from college, voted in an election, started your own business, gotten married, begun a family, served your country in the military, been elected to local government office, or purchased a home.
But you might have difficulty staying at a hotel or motel in the Wildwoods.
Renee Carnevale, a 21-year-old Kean University student, told the Herald that she and her boyfriend could not find a property that would allow her or anyone in her age category to book a room.
After being turned away from almost every hotel or motel, Carnevale said that she finally decided to take her business to an Atlantic City casino.
“Wildwood has the beach, the boardwalk, and the piers that appeal to people my age. Younger people come here and spend money. Why would they want to discriminate against a paying customer?” questioned Carnevale.
“My boyfriend and I are not teenagers going to Wildwood after-prom to party and destroy our hotel room. We are adults who have full-time jobs and would like to relax for the weekend,” she added.
A representative at the Greater Wildwood Hotel/Motel Association, who asked not to be identified, said that “age restriction” is not a standard policy, but it is up to the individual hotels and motels if they want to allow young customers.
The representative offered a list of approximately 25 motels available for vacationers who are considered “underage.” However, the list is not current and contains names of a few properties that have been demolished. Further, the list is “fluid,” as many motel owners may change their minds about renting to a certain age group at anytime, according to the representative.
“Most of those places are dives,” Carnevale said of the motels that have a reputation for catering to a younger crowd.
“I’ve been coming to Wildwood with my family since I was an infant. Why should I get treated like a criminal for wanting to go on vacation here?” she asked.
Carnevale said last year she was almost turned away from a motel, after driving three hours from her hometown of Carteret.
“When we looked on the hotel’s brochure and website, there was no mention of an age limit. When I booked the room they didn’t ask my age. And they certainly didn’t hesitate to cash my deposit check,” she said.
“They eventually made an exception, but not before getting copies of our license and credit cards and repeatedly telling us that we would be held responsible if anything was broken,” she said.
A motel owner, who also asked to remain anonymous, said that many motels adhere to an age policy because owners want to protect families from a rowdy atmosphere.
“When I used to rent to the 19- to 23-year-olds, about 80 percent of the time I would run into problems,” said the motel owner. “It is just not worth it.”
Broken furniture, sneaking guests into rooms, loud voices at late hours, and underage drinking were among the frequent issues he encountered when he had allowed younger people to stay at his property, he said.
“The motels are not against teenagers, we’re just against the actions of some of their peers,” he said.
However, the motel owner said that certain exceptions are made for younger visitors.
“If we knew the family or the individual, then we could probably rent them a room without worrying about a potential problem,” he explained. 
“The Wildwoods are working to reestablish themselves as a family resort and motels don’t want to be known as a party place,” he said.  
But Carnevale isn’t sure her family will be returning to the island.
“If this is how they’re going to treat me at this age, why would I want to come back at any age?” she asked. 
Contact Huggins at: (609) 886-8600 ext. 25 or lhuggins@cmcherald.com

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