License review causes temporary motel closure

Brian Close

Cancel your plans to stay at the Gopher Campus Motor Lodge in the next few months.
The motel, located at Interstate 35W and Fourth Street Southeast, will be closed for renovations until mid-April. The closing follows a licensing review by the Minneapolis City Council that left the owners with a choice: either pay $20,000 or close for 60 days.
Events leading to the review began last April, when the motel was the site of a large-scale drug bust during which police found drugs and guns. They arrested six suspects who were later released pending further investigation.
After the raid, the city began a series of license review hearings based on the high crime levels at the motel. In early February, the council decided to revoke the motel’s license, but then delay the revocation indefinitely to allow the motel to continue to operate.
In addition to closing the motel for 60 days, the owners must retain a strict identification policy of guests and employ an off-duty police officer.
Co-owner Elmer Salovich, a local orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor in the University Medical School, said the motel will use the time to remodel its 44 rooms while working out a franchise agreement with Super 8, Motel 6 or Travelodge.
He said the arrangement would allow for outstate patrons to make reservations and would increase the quality of the clientele.
“When you sign up with a franchise, it forces management to meet certain standards,” Salovich said.
Salovich said that while the conditions of the license will remain in effect, he anticipates that a good track record will allow the motel to eventually be treated “like any other establishment.”
He added that the whole ordeal with the city cost approximately $75,000, which includes revenue loss, security costs and legal fees. But, he said, he is positive about the future.
Motel manager Craig Larson attended a meeting of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association. Association staff member Melissa Bean said her group wants to maintain contact with the motel.
“We are looking forward to a better-managed and better-looking facility and hope things go well,” she said.
Larson said the renovations will improve the appearance and security of the motel, creating a “cleaner appearance and atmosphere.” The owners hope to build a new lobby area facing Fourth Street, which will help keep unwanted guests from sneaking into the building.
But Salovich said he wants to keep the gopher theme, although the motel may change names, becoming the Gopher Motor Inn.
“We want the maroon and gold,” he said.