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How to Work with Your (Romantic) Partner: Jersey Banks and Lyon Porter, Urban Cowboy Hotels

The pandemic has caused many of us to pause and reboot, question everything we’re doing from how we work to who we work with. Do you have a fantasy of working with your life partner? Maybe you already do (hello, email us!)? hertelier will be doing a series on couples that work together, how they do it, their tips and tricks to keep both relationships running smoothly.

Jersey Banks and Lyon Porter, co-founders of Urban Cowboy Hotels
Jersey Banks and Lyon Porter, co-founders of Urban Cowboy Hotels

In May of 2014, Jersey Banks and her partner Lyon Porter, created Urban Cowboy Brooklyn as a small B&B, it exploded into an international sensation in the first six months. Soon, their home became a staple of Brooklyn culture--a place where big ideas went to grow and life-long friends were made. “The Cowboy" expanded to Nashville, and continued to evolve into a special collective of creatives, coming from all over the world to enjoy the experiential design and community that is drawn to the spaces. Urban Cowboy no longer uses the original Brooklyn property as a hotel, but has expanded to three locations:


Urban Cowboy: Located in the cultural epicenter of East Nashville, Urban Cowboy’s eight experiential suites are housed in a historic Victorian mansion, there’s nightly entertainment, a high-end heritage menswear shop, Snake Oil Provisions, and the Public House Bar which serves up craft cocktails and pizza from Brooklyn restaurant, Roberta’s. Urban Cowboy is an adult playground, all guests must be 21 and up.

Funky hotel lobby in Nashville, TN
Lobby at the Urban Cowboy, Nashville, Tennessee

The Dive Motel: Previously a dilapidated, 1956 Motor Inn, called “The Key Motel,” Lyon and Jersey reimagined the space as a mixture of Classic Motel Americana meets Pantone inspired Romantic Nostalgia. Each of the 23 rooms is one of a kind and comes with the signature 'Party Switch' that spins a Disco Ball to the tunes of “Dive Radio”, consisting of 4 channels: Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Sleep. There’s also an outdoor pool (heated in the winter) and hot tub, the property features a Dive Bar & Lounge that serves cold drinks and hot food late into the night.

Funky hotel room, Nashville Tennessee
Guestroom at The Dive Motel, Nashville, Tennessee

Upstate New York--

The duo's newest property, The Lodge, is a 28-room hotel on 68 acres in the Big Indian Wilderness, inside of the 700,000 acre Catskills Park, only 2.5 hours from New York City, which launched in March of 2020. The hotel features rooms and suites with custom wallpaper, bathtubs, and private decks with forest views. The hotel has a bar and dining room, featuring local produce and products, and in room coffee service.

Rustic guest room at the Urban Cowboy Lodge in the Catskills
Guestroom at the new Urban Cowboy Lodge, Catskills, New York

We chat with Jersey Banks:

Are you married? for how long?

We were married in a masi wedding in Kenya while on safari in 2018, unbeknownst to us.

How long have you been working together?

We have been working together since 2014.

What made you decide to try being business partners (as well as life partners)?

We just kind of fell into both. We were very non-committal about working together and about actually being a couple. Then after spending day and night together for months we looked at each other in denial and said "are we in love?" We were. We agreed to keep doing whatever it was we were doing until it wasn't fun anymore.

What drew you to the hotel business?

We are accidental hoteliers. When we opened our doors, we knew we wanted to have people stay and create a community around travelers and creatives. It was just far more popular than we imagined.

What are your roles in the business? are they similar to your roles at home?

We are kind of opposites in that Lyon is form and I am function. He is the ideal host and obsesses over the aesthetics of a space. I’m more introverted and operations-focused. This is true at home as well. I spend the weekend in a tool belt doing house maintenance and Lyon adjusts wall hangings and redecorates shelves with new found objects.

How have you managed during the pandemic? how has your business been impacted?

We are very lucky to still be open and looking forward to reclaiming this high season. But it was a whirlwind where we could have, at many moments, lost everything. We have had to reimagine our businesses, for the better, several times.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of working with your life partner?

Learning when to not work, because we are both creatives and love what we do, it's very easy to constantly bounce ideas off each other and work non-stop. You have to create boundaries on when work ends.

What do you think is the best part of working with your life partner?

Getting to dream together.

What is the most unexpected thing about working with your life partner?

The level of communication we have had to develop with one another. We can speak candidly to each other about how we do not agree on business matters and also about how much we care about each other.

Do you suggest going into business with your significant other? why? and if the answer is yes, what tips do you give others thinking about it. if no, why?

I do. My suggestion is to be best friends first. Then make an agreement that when it's not fun anymore you reassess.

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