City council allows motel to continue business operations

Brian Close

The Minneapolis City Council decided Friday to allow the Gopher Campus Motor Lodge, located at 925 Fourth St. S.E., to remain in business as long as they meet a number of operating criteria.
The motel’s troubles began after an April drug raid, in which six people were arrested but released without charges. Minneapolis city officials then reviewed the motel, concluding it had unusually high crime rates. The panel finished its review in November, and after passing through committee, the recommendations went to the full council for Friday’s vote.
The motel’s license will technically be indefinitely revoked, but they will be allowed to operate as long as they meet requirements. These include the presence of an off-duty police officer at least five days a week, and strict procedures for identifying guests. In addition, the motel’s owners must pay a $20,000 fine or shut down for two months. The owners said they have chosen to pay the fine rather than close the motel’s doors.
Ward 2 councilwoman Joan Campbell, who pushed for the license revocation, said the motel will be carefully watched. She called the results of the license hearing “disturbing.”
“If a business needs that kind of oversight, are they really in a position to operate the business?” she asked.
But co-owner Elmer Salovich, a local orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor in the University Medical School, said the new procedures have led to a dramatic decrease in crime at the motel.
According to Minneapolis Police statistics, there were only two emergency calls in November and December, bringing the 1998 total to 54, down from 123 in 1997. There have been two such calls in 1999.
“We have had no calls concerning unlawful behavior that I am aware of in the last four months,” Salovich said.
He said he credits new management along with a strict identification policy that requires all lodgers and any visitors to show a state-issued identification. In addition, visitors must leave the premises by 11 p.m.
Salovich said the whole process has cost the owners close to $75,000, and will delay plans to renovate the exterior.
He criticized recent television coverage, which reported that desk clerks have directed people to drug dealing guests.
“That is absolutely not true,” he said. “No employee of the Gopher motel has ever been charged with any kind of drug violation.”
He also criticized the fact that there is no ending date on the conditions, but said that he hopes the council will eventually lift them.
Patricia Kelly, Campbell’s administrative aide, said it is inappropriate for the council to control the day-to-day operations of a business.
“It is not our job to tell them what those managerial things are,” she said. “(The conditions) are now locked into perpetuity, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”