Mulhauser Barn’s weekend rental rates double

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Older contract rates locked in, official say.

West Chester Twp. has not raised the rental rates for the Muhlhauser Barn in almost a dozen years, so the trustees have agreed to double the weekend prices to $2,000 so renters will hopefully stop “disrespecting” the iconic property.

The barn opened in 2007 and the venue — which has no heat or air conditioning — is rented from April through mid-November for everything from weddings and other private parties to non-profit events. At the outset, the weekend rent was $850 for residents and $100 more for non-residents. The rates jumped to $900/$1,000 in 2011 and the township eliminated resident pricing in 2015.

The new rate will be $2,000 from Friday to Sunday and $500 for weekdays; the current weekday rate is $700. The Barn is nearly booked solid through next year and those contracts are locked in at the old rate.

Township Administrator Larry Burks said the main goal is to make sure the facility is maintained and cleaned and when renters “disrespect the facility as much as they do, we have to be able to cover our expenses for that too.” He said it is not unheard of for people to toss furniture off the deck and cause other destruction.

“Just recently we had an event where they did no cleaning, they did nothing, cake was all over the floor, bathroom left in shambles, it was just deplorable. And we have to pay extra for the cleaners and we had to help clean it, too,” Burks said. “There are incidents where they don’t see the value in it when it’s cheap, so we have to strike a balance.”

In 2020 rental revenues were $71,570 and expenses $64,354, last year revenues were $103,785 and expenses — for things like utilities and property maintenance — totaled $57,962. The expenses do not include township staff time or larger projects, like a new deck which is estimated at $350,000.

Barb Wilson, the director of public information and engagement, said they have had nearly 1,200 rentals since the barn opened. This year they have about 126 rentals and fewer than 20 are by West Chester residents.

Trustee Lee Wong initially balked at the rent hike.

“We want this a part of a gift to the community and let them use it at a very reasonable price,” Wong said. “We are not in competition with businesses but this is a gift for the residents to use it. I do realize a lot of the users today are from out of town, but in my heart I still feel at this time the economy environment I wouldn’t support increase the rental fee.”

Wilson told the Journal-News non-profits have always received a 20% discount and still will. She said they are limiting nighttime rentals during the week — they were becoming a little unwieldy because many people have been booking for large events like weddings, leaving little time to get the facility prepped for weekend use and causing “wear and tear” to the building. Nighttime bookings during the week will be allowed on a limited basis.

“Smaller non-profits, if they need a place to gather for something small and they want to do that on a Monday night, we can do that, we might charge them cleaning,” she said. “They would do that through a community event application process.”

She said the current rates are below the present market. Bob Niederman with the Niederman Family Farm venue in Liberty Twp. said their rental rates range “from nothing up to a little over $2,000.” They are open year-round.

Trustees Ann Becker and Mark Welch supported the rate hike, largely because of the cost to maintain it and to address major projects such as the deck. Welch said if they find the rate increase has a negative impact on the facility’s use they can adjust it. He said they probably waited too long for this price change.

“It’s always easier to make these kinds of increases on more of an annual basis than to wait for a long period of time and take a big bite of the apple,” Welch said. “It’s harder to swallow. And I think we should look at that going forward, doesn’t have to be every year but I think every couple years we should reevaluate and see where that price should be.”

They convinced Wong the hike was warranted and he voted a “reluctant yes.”

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