Minneapolis City Council to vote

Brian Close

The Gopher Motor Lodge will stay open for business if the Minneapolis City Council takes the advice of a panel that has publicly debated the issue since November.
But the motel’s owners aren’t in the clear yet.
The panel decided that the motel’s license to operate should be revoked indefinitely — with one stipulation.
The panel recommended the revocation should be put on hold, as long as the motel’s owners meet certain conditions, including employing off-duty police at least five days a week, and paying a $20,000 fine in lieu of a 60-day suspension.
The recommendations, passed Wednesday by the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, are up for City Council approval Feb. 5.
The inquiry followed a drug raid on the motel in April, when police arrested six suspects for drug trafficking. In November, a panel concluded that a revocation or suspension of the motel’s license is authorized because of numerous incidents of drug dealing and disorderly management.
Assistant City Attorney Henry Reich testified during the hearings that an inordinate number of emergency 911 calls — more than 300 — were logged in the last three years concerning the motel.
But records show that in November and December, only two emergency calls were made about the motel.
“We did not feel a permanent revocation of this license was appropriate,” said Councilman Paul Ostrow. He added that the motel owners have taken steps to address the problems, and they will be monitored to ensure compliance.
Despite these conditions, Ward 2 councilwoman Joan Campbell said she was “terribly disappointed with the outcome.”
“This motel did not get to this position overnight,” she said. “I really think the license should be revoked and not suspended.”
Ostrow agreed that the motel’s owners were “tardy” in responding to the city’s complaints, but said they eventually did make the necessary changes.
“I don’t think we’ve gone lightly on the motel,” he said. “I think they know they’re going to be watched.”
Campbell told the committee the city had tried to work out the problems with the motel even before the drug raid, but the recommendations were not followed.
Motel co-owner Larry Hopfenspirger was visibly upset by Campbell’s comments to the council. He said he tried several times to meet with Campbell and that the owners made numerous changes to the motel since the inquiry began.
“To say that we didn’t carry out those items is not true,” he said.
Hopfenspirger and his attorney declined to comment further on the outcome.
Campbell said she hasn’t decided whether to attempt to overturn the panel’s recommendations, but Ostrow warned her that such a move would be harmful and noted that the panel spent 40 to 50 hours in deliberation.
“If a decision such as this were overturned, it would have grave consequences for the process,” he said.