|By Karla Ward, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 29, 2005 - The Continental Inn fetched a top bid of $3 million on the auction block yesterday morning, but whether it will remain a hotel remains uncertain.
Dick Bass, a Lexington attorney and financial adviser who said he was the lead in a group of investors, placed the high bid.
The hotel's owner, Calipso Investments Inc., will have until Nov. 7 to decide whether to accept the bid, which fell below the reserve price of $3.5 million.
Bass said he and his partners, whom he declined to name, did not have any firm plans for the hotel.
"Everything's an option at this point," he said. "I feel like I got a very good piece of property for a very good price."
The hotel, near the intersection of New Circle and Winchester roads, opened in 1965 and over the years played host to such big names as Ronald Reagan and Lee Majors, groups of hobbyists ranging from psychics to square dancers, and, reportedly, more than one ghost.
It stopped accepting guests Aug. 31.
Doug Young, managing director for Calipso, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company, said last month that the company has had difficulty managing the inn from Florida.
"All of our assets are here," he said. "It's a logistics problem."
Calipso bought the 10.5-acre site for $3.6 million in June 2004, according to Fayette County property valuation records.
James Boxx, who worked at the 319-room hotel for seven years, most recently as the kitchen supervisor, said business had dropped off recently.
"It got to the point where the only people who were eating were employees," he said.
Boxx said he came to yesterday's auction because he "just wanted to see it through."
"I don't want to see it torn down," he said.
Stephen D'Addario, who has worked at the inn for 18 years and is serving as its interim manager, said he, too, would be sorry to see it go and that many former guests have cried when he told them the hotel had closed.
"A lot of people (are) wondering what their landmark is going to turn out to be," he said. "It still has a lot of potential."
However, the dated condition of the property and its location on New Circle Road makes it a prime candidate for a complete redevelopment, several unsuccessful bidders said before the auction.
"This place is an eyesore. It's a liability for the neighborhood," said Bill Harman of Harman Investment Properties. "I would redevelop it as individual pads for various smaller businesses" such as convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.
The inn was owned and operated for 30 years by Continental Inn Partners.
That company filed for bankruptcy in 1995, and the hotel was sold at auction the following year to The Oaks Inc., which had held a second mortgage on the property when it was owned by Continental Inn Partners.
Calipso bought the inn from The Oaks (a company not affiliated with the local condominium development).
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