Two different judges, two different problem-plagued motels, same outcome.
Franklin County Environmental Court Judge Daniel R. Hawkins last week came down hard on the Red Carpet Inn, 1289 E. Dublin-Granville Road, and its owners, just as visiting Judge Teresa L. Liston did Jan. 21 regarding the Columbus Inn and Suites, 6121 Zumstein Drive.
The judges in both instances ordered the establishments to remain closed for a year. Further, they barred those properties from ever again being run as public nuisances and permanently banned the owners from operating a public nuisance in Franklin County.
Hawkins pulled no punches in his assessment of the way in which Red Carpet Inn has been managed since it was purchased by Sunstar Columbus Inc. on Aug. 15 and had its name changed from Motel 6.
"The appalling conditions of the property, combined with the numerous incidents of illegal drug trafficking, prostitution and crimes of violence evidenced in this case, leads this court to conclude that the property is a nuisance subject to abatement," he wrote in his ruling. "The continued operation of this property in the manner described constituted a serious threat to the health and safety of both its occupants as well as the surrounding properties.
"This permanent injunction shall run with the land and will be binding upon the real estate itself, as well as respondents-defendants and any other successors and assigns in interest," Hawkins wrote.
"Complete victory for the city," declared William A. Sperlazza, the assistant city attorney for the zone that encompasses the Northland area.
"We are very pleased with Judge Hawkins' ruling in this case," City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said in a prepared statement. "The facts we presented to the court speak for themselves."
"The first time could have been considered a fluke," Northland Community Council President Emmanuel V. Remy said. "Now that we've had two in the area, it sends a clear and distinct message: They are not welcome in the Northland area."
"We don't like to see businesses closed, but when they don't play by the rules, they lose the community," said William Logan, coordinator of the Northland Area Code Task Force. "I was impressed by the punitive actions that are really a warning for everyone in the hotel-motel-accommodations business."
City officials shut down the Red Carpet Inn on Jan. 22. A judge granted a temporary restraining order sought by the city attorney's office after the Columbus Division of Police responded to 358 calls to that address in 2013.
Sunstar Columbus Inc., an Ohio corporation, was formed in May 2013; its owners are identified in court documents as Punarvasu "Dipen" Patel, Harihar Patel, Dharmendra Patel and Minal Patel.
"The four owners of Sunstar Columbus Inc. all play different roles for the company," according to Hawkins' ruling.
The judge noted that Minal Patel and her husband, Rakesh, both worked at the motel and lived there from Aug. 15, 2013, until it was shut down and all residents and guests were forced to leave Jan. 22.
"The general reputation of 1289 E. Dublin-Granville Road is that it is a place where drug activity and prostitution occur regularly," Hawkins found.
He cited nine occasions in which felony arrests were made between Sept. 19, 2013, and this past Jan. 15. Heroin, cocaine, marijuana and syringes were seized when a search warrant for Room 142 was executed on Oct. 2, the judge indicated.
"Additionally, on Dec. 30, 2013, a methamphetamine lab was discovered in a room at the Red Carpet Inn," Hawkins wrote. "This dangerous lab was discovered by police when called to the hotel on a domestic violation incident."
In addition, he wrote, "illegal prostitution activity is also widespread" and the motel has been the scene of violent crime.
The judge ordered all personal property owned by the four defendants to be removed from the motel "and sold, without appraisal, at a public auction for cash." Hawkins also fined each of the defendants $300 and ordered them to pay court costs.