Reno residents have long experienced the train of art cars and their Burner inhabitants that stream through the city en route to Burning Man in northern Nevada each August, leaving a trail of dust behind them on their way back out. But now the city offers a bit of respite for festival-goers as host to the world's first dedicated Burning Man hotel. The Morris Burner Hotel on East 4th Street is in the final stages of completion and will soon be accepting Burning Man enthusiasts and other interested community members to enjoy art, musical performances, and around 31 rooms inspired by the week-long event in Black Rock Desert.
Photo via blazenfluff.com
After selling some commercial property, retired Bay Area business owner Jim Gibson (who goes by the playa name Jungle Jim) stumbled across and purchased the 84-year-old hotel at the corner of 4th Street and the railroad tracks. He posted his idea of a Burner hotel on Facebook and was fully supported in the endeavor. At the time, the Morris Hotel had about 18 people living in it, many who called the hotel their home for dozens of years. Gibson had no intention of moving them out, but up. The top floor is dedicated to long-term residents, but several chose to be relocated.
"The hotel was so dirty and so stinky," Gibson said. "But I kept thinking of the Burning Man community and how they would take on projects and how a permanent gathering and art space would benefit the community."
Each Morris Burner Hotel room has a proper Burning Man-appropriate name.
With his cool, white rimmed glasses and a white, cropped goatee, Gibson looks like your favorite uncle, and his enthusiasm for Burning Man is contagious. After his first Burn in 2008, he built his Jungle Bus art car and worked on several other projects including the Department of Mutant Vehicles and 2010's Ein Hammer. However, his life really changed after working on the Temple of Transition in 2011 at Hobson Square in downtown Reno. "I always really enjoyed the community aspect of Burning Man," Gibson said. "We built the Temple entirely on Burner Love and dedication to a cause. It was amazing."
The mantra and decor of the Sparkle Pony Room.
His ideas for the Morris go way beyond it just being a hotel and hostel. In the next few months, Gibson and his mostly volunteer team plan to turn the three-story hotel into a community space for not only Burners, but local and regional artists, musicians, and anyone interested in learning more about the Burning Man community and Reno.
There are plans to turn the 3,000-square-foot basement into a storage and art space and the backyard will have a greenhouse and a community garden where residents and visitors can grow their own food to cook in the community kitchen. There are also plans to set up a coffee shop and restaurant. The lobby will be available for people to charge their cell phones, access WiFi, and even fill their water bottles. Visitors and residents are expected to live by the Burning Man principles and take care of the rooms, help cook communal meals, and clean up after themselves. Nobody will just live here, everyone participates in some way.
The hotel's soft opening was during the NADAgras, which attracted over nearly 1,500 visitors.
The Morris Hotel currently has about 13 rentable art rooms renting for $20. A hostel bed is $12.50, a King bed is $35 and a two room suite is $60 per night. Proposals from Burning Man artists have been accepted for most of them. Completed rooms include the Goddess Room, the Sparkle Pony Room, the Desert Room, and the Cuban Gangsta Room. The hotel sits just yards away from a homeless shelter and food drive center but Gibson and his crew have opened their arms (and pockets) to their neighbors with regular clothing and coat drives. The latest neighbors to visit the hotel have been the firefighters who work in the station across the street who told many interesting tales of its colorful history.
During the actual Burning Man event, the hotel will most likely be booked months ahead of time, but the Morris crew have plans to reach out to community members to see who might have an extra bed or guest house to accommodate an artist or ticket holder. They also plan to have shuttles available for Burners.
The backyard of the hotel will feature artists and community events.
"Everyone's welcome," Gibson said. "My favorite part of the whole thing is to let people come and stay weekends. This is a really great way for Burners to get to know each other."
Additional Photos by Christina Nellemann and Harry Thomas.
Gibson is currently floating the expenses of the hotel, but he plans on having the place support itself. Several fundraising events will be held, including a Monsters & Elves closed street party in May. The city of Reno is also on board with the hotel and its plans for community involvement. Gibson has been working with city officials, poring over local code books, finding a way to designate the hotel. The paperwork is now being filed to make the hotel a private club, or a lodge or fraternal order, rather than a public hotel which will let him and the arts community do more with facility and grounds.
"The city has been just fabulous," Gibson exclaimed. "They have been so good to us, and we've been good to them. We're doing everything by the rules and just bending over backwards to make sure we do everything right. It's a two-way street, but it's a wonderful street."