98-room Carlisle Inn includes plenty of spaces for groups to to gather

There’s a subtle quilt pattern that runs through Sarasota’s newest hotel.

The small squares of color, along with handmade furniture and a few tastefully hung straw hats behind the front desk, set a unique tone for the 98-room Carlisle Inn off Bahia Vista Street near Beneva Road, just northeast of its sister property, Der Dutchman restaurant.

This is a simple but elegant place.

The hotel, which opened quietly on March 1, nods to the Amish and Mennonite communities that surround it in the Pinecraft neighborhood but it’s also a modern property designed to serve everyone, said Mike Palmer, the president of Dutchman Hospitality, which owns the hotel and Der Dutchman restaurant.

It has televisions, a pool, a workout room and a few other things that most people wouldn’t associate with those cultures.

But there are also an undeniable attention to detail and a focus on gathering.

"It’s the values and character of our heritage with modern amenities,” Palmer said.

The ceilings in the rooms are 10-feet high and the corridors are wider than a typical hotel's would be, which makes the property feel less crowded than many of its competitors. There’s also quite a bit of space where guests can linger, whether they’re playing games in a living room-like space next to the breakfast area, sitting around a large outdoor fire pit or using the nearly 5,000 square feet of meeting space. The layout of the hotel lends itself to large groups, whether they’re part of the community’s culture or not.  

“Everyone kind of assumes that it’s just for the Amish or that we’re catering just to the Amish,” said Sean Miller, the group and events manager at the property. “That’s going to be a big market of ours, but we have a lot of sports groups coming in already.”

That kind of environment could prove incredibly useful as Sarasota County continues to amp up sports tourism in the region. Room rates start at $199 per night, which is competitive for this area. When soccer players and rowers come here for tournaments and events, they need somewhere they can sleep and eat. There’s no better place to do that than just yards away from the large portions of home-style cooking and family tables at Der Dutchman, said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. 

“A lot of people staying in the hotel will be groups that know each other,” Haley said.

The hotel at 3727 Bahia Vista is still about a month away from its formal grand opening, but even in its earliest weeks it’s been feeling a surge from Sarasota’s high season. The Carlisle Inn was only two or so rooms shy of being booked to capacity its first weekend, Miller said, and he expects that to continue in the coming weeks.

The project broke ground in November 2016, but putting a hotel in Pinecraft has been something Dutchman Hospitality has had in the works for years.

The company has a long history in Sarasota. The Dutch Corp. opened Der Dutchman restaurant in 1985.

There’s been no shortage of hotel projects popping up in Sarasota County as the economy has settled following the Great Recession. The Aloft opened downtown in early 2016, and the Westin followed just a few blocks away last summer. An Embassy Suites is under construction at the corner of U.S. 41 and Fruitville Road, and Marriott’s Art Ovation hotel downtown is expected to open in the coming weeks.

The Carlisle Inn, though, offers an experience quite unlike any other in the region, Haley said. The property puts its guests right in the middle of one of the most unusual neighborhoods in the region. There are shops and restaurants all within walking distance, and many of the neighborhoods' residents sell their handmade wares right from their homes.

“You get to enjoy the unique experience of staying in Pinecraft in the heart of Pinecraft,” she said. “You get to really be a part of that community and stay in a very different-feeling hotel.”