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Steven Kent Hotel Joins Rodeway Inn on Foreclosure
Auction Block, Petersburg, Virginia

By Michael Buettner, The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 26, 2009--Two longtime landmarks of the local hospitality industry are scheduled to go under the auctioneer's gavel, likely victims of a slowdown in travel resulting from high fuel prices and a prolonged economic slump.

The former Rodeway Inn at 405 E. Washington St. in Petersburg, which sits at a high-profile location next to the southbound off-ramp from Interstate 95, will be the scene of a foreclosure auction at 1 p.m. today.

Meanwhile, a foreclosure auction of the Steven Kent Hotel at 12205 S. Crater Road has been set for Sept. 17. That property, located at exit 45 on I-95 at U.S. Route 301, has been a major stopping point for "snowbirds" for more than 40 years.

The Rodeway Inn, which has been operating as the Broadway Inn more recently, was built in the mid-1960s and opened as an America House motel. That chain was based in Richmond and also owned the Hotel John Marshall in downtown Richmond and another America House location in Cape Charles. The Cape Charles inn, which is nearly identical to the Petersburg property, operates today as the Sunset Beach Resort.

Representatives of National Commercial Auctioneers opened the property Tuesday for inspection by potential bidders. The 120-room hotel includes a fully equipped restaurant, but while the hotel was continuing to take guests through Monday night, the restaurant has been closed for more than a year.

Steven Karbelk, president of National Commercial Auctioneers, said the property has attracted quite a bit of interest. "We've had buyers come here from different parts of the East Coast, we even had one come in from Canada," he said.

Karbelk said the hotel offers real value. "This property was operating at a 10 to 20 percent occupancy rate, while the Ramada across the street is operating some nights at 100 percent," he said. "There have got to be some opportunities here to increase the occupancy, to increase income."

About seven miles to the south, employees and associates at the Steven Kent were shocked to learn of the pending foreclosure proceedings against that property.

The property is owned by GJS Group LLC, which lists the hotel's address as its principal place of business. The company is owned by Gurdeep Singh.

Somewhat confusingly, that address is also the location of Vijay Hospitality LLC, owned by Vibma "Sam" Singh.

According to an employee who declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak to the press, GJS owns and operates the hotel, while Vijay leases and operates the restaurant/lounge and banquet rooms. The two Singhs are not related, she said.

No one at either business had been aware of any foreclosure proceedings until a public notice was published in The Progress-Index on Monday, nor were they able to locate Gurdeep Singh as of Tuesday morning, she said. Sam Singh did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The hotel, which was built by A.R. Tedesco of Petersburg in the early 1960s, has been operating as a Howard Johnson in recent years. Its restaurant was a popular dining destination for locals for many years, but the hotel drew most of its business from snowbirds -- people who divide their time seasonally between the Northeast and Florida -- because of its location near the halfway point between New York and the Sunshine State.

That traffic has fallen steeply, however. In April, Sam Singh applied to Prince George County for a permit to operate a dance hall in one of the property's banquet rooms and said he was hoping the change would help offset a steep drop in revenue. At the time, he told supervisors that his year-to-date revenue was half of what it had been at the same time the previous year.

County supervisors voted in June to approve the permit, with a number of restrictions.

- Michael Buettner may be reached at 722-5155 or mbuettner@progress-index.com.

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To see more of The Progress-Index or to subscribe to the newspaper, visit http://www.progress-index.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Va.

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