Jonathon Lloyd has always been in the business of serving people. After he moved to Calgary, he opened a bed and breakfast with a focus on the LGBTQ community. Although this focus on the community and his relationship with his business partner has changed, Westways remains one of Calgary's greatest bed and breakfasts that has overcome various challenges.
At the time of his move to Calgary, Lloyd was close to 40 years old and had been working as a chef just outside of Liverpool, England.
He had first come to visit the Canadian city in 1989 to say hello to his oldest brother.
"I enjoyed the idea of Calgary. I liked it, it had all the things going for it. I liked the lifestyle."
Lloyd owned his own property outside Liverpool, so moving to Canada was a huge change to commit to. Nevertheless, that's exactly what Lloyd did.
"I decided, 'If I don't do it now, I'll be too old to get the points,'" he recalls.
Lloyd says he eventually attained landed immigrant status and came to Calgary in 1991. He stayed with his brother and found a job as a chef within a month despite the recession at the time.
Lloyd says, "I was thrown in the deep end by being made kitchen manager."
He says that job was "a learning task for me” because he needed to understand “how things were done in Canada."
In 1992, Lloyd visited Seattle and Vancouver and while he was there, he stayed at LGBTQ bed and breakfasts. Lloyd says he enjoyed the bed and breakfast lifestyle, adding that he liked the idea of his property generating income as well.
By 1993, Lloyd's property in the U.K. finally sold, so he started looking for houses he could turn into a bed and breakfast.
Lloyd looked at a dozen or so properties in the Beltline area, but he fell in love with the house now called Westways because of its location, character, and functionality.
Lloyd says, "Once I moved into the house, I realized what a wonderful area Mission was."
There was a last-minute scramble to open the doors of Westways and Lloyd was trying his best to ensure everything was ready in the summer of '93.
He was hoping to be open in time for the Calgary Stampede, as well as a gay rodeo happening on the opening weekend.
The rooms hadn't been fully decorated yet, so Lloyd told the guests to simply pay what they wanted to pay.
Around this time, Lloyd was focusing his business on gay and lesbian clientele and he began advertising in a local gay magazine.
He did this because that was a "niche market" at the time, but Lloyd also remembers taking phone calls from complete strangers telling him that he should “be with the devil” —thankfully, this is no longer the case.
As Lloyd says, "The climate has changed in that region."
Because of this change, Lloyd doesn't advertise in gay magazines as much as he once did.
That’s because the need for a LGBTQ-friendly bed and breakfast has been reduced by the acceptance of the gay and lesbian people in Calgary.
Not only has the acceptance of LGBTQ people in Calgary changed, but so has Lloyd and his business partner’s relationship.
"I kind of had this feeling of watching my entire investment float down the back laneway." -Graham McKay
Lloyd says he met Graham Mckay, his former partner — and current business partner — around 2002.
McKay says he would frequently see him at the Texas Lounge, where he was bartending. Shortly after, they started dating and operating Westways together.
Lloyd says after eight years, “The relationship kind of ended, not acrimoniously, but it just kind of ended."
However, their business partnership didn’t end. Lloyd has taken a step back in the management of Westways in recent years, and McKay is taking a more active role in running the business.
McKay says, "We're very amicable, and we complement each other very well in this job."
Their business has done well too, as Westways Bed and Breakfast now ranks third on TripAdvisor’s best bed and breakfasts in Calgary 2018 list.
Westways has also developed a reputation for putting on elaborate and traditional English breakfasts with a flourish of Canadian favors, and guests are often impressed with the way the table is laid out.
Lloyd says some of their guests even take pictures of it.
Despite this success, Westways has seen its share of difficulties.
Just after McKay officially became a business partner and had his own suite built into the house, the 2013 flood hit Westways.
McKay says, "I kind of had this feeling of watching my entire investment float down the back laneway."
But McKay says he was more worried about how Lloyd was coping with the 2013 flood.
Lloyd says, "I was still very much in shock because it's 20 years living here, [the] business is gone just before the stampede, [and I] had to cancel all the reservations for the stampede."
After a lengthy process of re-certifying it as a legal bed and breakfast, Westways was back to being its regular self around December, 2013.
Lloyd says, "Since then, it's always been a worry around about June when this will happen again."
In addition, Lloyd claims that since 2014, business is down by 25 per cent. Although they have been affected by the economic recession, competition from Airbnb is also to blame.
Lloyd says, since Airbnb rentals aren't required to carry any insurance, "they don't have insurance liability."
"I collect tourism levy, which goes to the province. I'm licensed by the city. I collect GST, and Airbnb doesn't address any of these issues in the slightest”, says McKay. "My biggest problem with Airbnb is that it's not a level playing field."
Lloyd adds , "Around about 2014 when I looked at Airbnb there would have been about 40, 50 properties in Calgary running. Now it's well over 2,000, close to 3,000 properties," and they aren't inspected for health or safety.
Although the number of properties posing as a bed and breakfast have changed dramatically according to McKay, the fact that it's always been a lifestyle business remains.
"You know, I get to meet people from all around the world, and I don't work for anybody else. My commute [to work] is pretty, pretty quick!" he jokes.
- By Gregory Balanko-Dickson