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Two Galveston Island Holiday Inn Franchisees
 Battle Territorial Rights in Court

By Kevin Moran, Houston Chronicle
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jun. 11, 2005 - GALVESTON -- After winning a court skirmish with island native and Houston businessman Tilman Fertitta, owners of a new Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort say they plan to open their inn on the seawall on Wednesday, June 15.

Fertitta is chief executive officer and president of Landry's Restaurants, which operates the Holiday Inn on the Beach here.

The Fertitta companies failed Friday to obtain a court order to temporarily prohibit the Holiday Inn chain from giving final approval of the opening of a new Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort.

The new hotel was built by Dallas developer Mark Wyant, an airline pilot whose family has been in the hotel business for decades and owns a Comfort Inn and Suites, also located on Galveston's Seawall Boulevard.

Workers Friday were busy furnishing rooms and putting last-minute touches on the hotel at Seawall Boulevard and 17th Street, which will operate as a SunSpree Resort -- a Holiday Inn concept catering to families on vacation at popular tourist destinations.

Landry's filed a lawsuit in January to stop Wyant from opening under the Holiday Inn name. The suit argued that the five-story, 98-room hotel doesn't meet Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort quality standards and would compete unfairly with Holiday Inn on the Beach. The company also claimed that the Galveston hotel market is "saturated."

Attorney Edward Perkins, representing the Fertitta interests, told state District Judge Lonnie Cox on Friday that Wyant's hotel is "really nothing more than a Comfort Inn gussied up to make it look a little better."

Thomas Stillwell, representing Holiday Inn Hospitality Franchising, said that wasn't the case. "These people fear competition," he said.

Wyant said Friday that his hotel meets all the requirements to hold a SunSpree franchise, including daily children's activities, exercise facilities and arrangements for guests to use a local golf course, tennis courts and health club.

"We feel we have built a facility that's more than equal to anything on the beachfront," Wyant said. "It's geared toward families and children."

Stillwell argued successfully to Cox that the Fertitta interests had no grounds for obtaining a temporary restraining order prohibiting Holiday Inn from granting approval to Wyant's franchise.

The lawsuit Landry's filed against Holiday Inn Hospitality Franchising remains outstanding. Landry's attorneys were still expected to request that Cox consider their arguments for an injunction against Wyant's SunSpree franchise there.

Wyant said he does not believe there are too many hotel rooms in Galveston and said his family corporation has plans to build a "very, very elegant resort" on the island.

He declined to reveal the location of his family's next development.

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Copyright (c) 2005, Houston Chronicle

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