Paul Cianciolo's plan to open a hostel in Old Town received a major setback this week when the owner of the building at 216 S. Peyton St. opted to lease it to another tenant.
In June, Cianciolo received approval from Alexandria City Council to operate a hostel with a bar at the Peyton Street property.
Cianciolo said the landlord’s decision to sign another tenant caught him off guard.
“It was kind of out of blue,” he said. “I was expecting to get the lease back with the signature on it and get the renovations going. … He just didn’t want to take any risk and took another offer. It’s probably an office tenant.”
Nearby business owners and residents, as well as parents of children at several nearby daycare centers, expressed dire concerns about Cianciolo's plan during the approval process.
The daycare parents were especially concerned about the type of customer a hostel—an establishment that provides cheap lodging with regulations that is typically popular among travelers in their late teens to early 30s—would attract.
“As a resident of Old Town Alexandria, I am uncomfortable knowing individuals having no ties to our community, and sometimes no ties to any community, are invited to this area,” one complainant wrote to Planning Commission.
“It’s no secret that people patronizing hostels are often not outstanding members of the communities where they travel from,” wrote another.
Cianciolo says the movie industry is to blame for the perception of hostels—specifically a set of torture porn flicks about Europe’s budget-oriented accommodations.
“I think the term hostel gets kind of a knee-jerk reaction when you hear that here in the U.S.,” he said in June. “And that’s really the fault of Hollywood. They made a really bad movie. And because of that movie, a lot of people are scared of hostels. I think that’s where a lot of this reaction is coming from.”
Despite the protests and scary movies, the proposal received unanimous approval from council.
Cianciolo said Wednesday he’s not giving up on the plan.
“We’re going to continue,” he said. “We’d still like to open in Old Town. I think there’s a lot to offer. But we’re definitely looking at D.C. because they don’t have [the special use permit] process for a hostel.”