Fate of local motel

Brian Close

Minneapolis police statistics show a drastic reduction in the number of 911 calls to the Gopher Campus Motor Lodge in the last several months, increasing the owners’ hopes of winning a city licensing battle.
The motel’s future became uncertain last summer when city officials convened a series of hearings to review complaints against the motel and to decide whether to renew its license to conduct business.
According to Charles Gust, an officer with the Minneapolis police, only two people called the emergency number to report incidents at the motel in November and December. That brought the total number of calls in 1998 to 54, down from 123 in 1997.
“The reduction was due to collaborative work between the SAFE (community crime prevention) unit and the owner of the motel,” Gust said.
Co-owner Elmer Salovich, a local orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor in the University Medical School, credits a new management and strict rules for the drop in trouble at the establishment, located at 925 Fourth St. S.E.
Salovich described how the motel’s operations have changed. “In the past, if (patrons) could pay for a room and they showed some identification, they got in,” he said. “But once they got in, they started doing drugs.”
Now, Salovich said, patrons and their guests must show a state-issued picture identification, which is recorded. Another rule states that guests can’t stay past 11 p.m., he said.
City officials began investigating the motel after police conducted a drug raid in April 1998. Police arrested six people and recovered illegal drugs in the raid, but all who were arrested were released pending future investigation.
A series of hearings was held in October and November by the Minneapolis City Council to hear testimony from the motel’s owners, managers, city officials and area residents.
Assistant City Attorney Henry Reich testified that an inordinate number of emergency calls — more than 300 — were logged in the last three years concerning the motel.
Testimony from the hearings is now being prepared for presentation to the Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee, who will review and debate the information and make a recommendation to the full council.
Ward 2 councilwoman Joan Campbell has been an outspoken critic of the motel. In the past, she has called for the revocation of the license of the motel due to chronic problems.
Salovich hopes the decrease in crime in the area will come into play when the council members make their decision. He called the new rules “stringent.”
“Nowhere in the accommodations industry do they do this,” he said. “We have lost a substantial amount of income from people we could rent to, but who didn’t meet our qualifications.”
The regulatory committee is expected to debate the issue later this month with the full council decision to follow.
“We are positive,” Salovich said. “We think they will find for us.”