|By Karla Ward, Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 17, 2005 - The Continental Inn, the site of some of Lexington's most quirky conventions -- as well as at least one kidnapping and more than one unusual death -- has closed its doors to guests and is scheduled to go on the auction block next month.
After 40 years of business, the 319-room hotel -- near the intersection of New Circle and Winchester roads -- stopped accepting guests Aug. 31, but its two bars will remain open Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 30.
Doug Young, managing director for Calipso Investments Inc., the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company that owns the hotel, said the property has been on the market for about a year, because his company has had difficulty managing it from Florida.
"All of our assets are here," he said yesterday. "It's a logistics problem."
California-based Accelerated Marketing Group is handling the auction, set for Oct. 28. The hotel has 217,000 square feet and sits on 10.5 acres.
Calipso bought the hotel for $3.6 million in June 2004, according to Fayette County property valuation records.
"They've indicated that they're getting a tremendous response," Young said. "I look at the hotel as a wonderful opportunity for somebody that's in the hotel business."
However, Accelerated Marketing's listing says the property is a "prime redevelopment/ reposition opportunity."
The local landmark, which opened in 1965, 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).
The teal-trimmed hotel is a popular and unpretentious location that's been visited by the likes of Ronald Reagan, Lee Majors and Jerry Reed, frequented by out-of-towners with hobbies such as square-dancing and dart-throwing, and lived in by the down-on-their-luck with nowhere else to go.
Elvis festivals, tattoo expos, Star Trek conventions and psychic gatherings have been held there.
Among the more interesting incidents associated with the hotel's history:
--A Cumberland College professor was kidnapped at gunpoint from the hotel parking lot in 1984 and later found safe in the trunk of a car in Dayton. A man who allegedly kidnapped Wallace Wilkinson (before he became governor) was found dead at the Continental Inn later that year.
--In 1992, a Georgetown man was charged with murder in connection with a shooting in which a man was found dead in room 154.
--A first-grade teacher from Lexington was charged with prostitution after being arrested at the hotel in 2000.
In addition to the two bars remaining open through the end of this month, an "ultimate" fight scheduled for tonight and a tattoo expo next week are among the last events scheduled at the hotel.
It will be open to prospective buyers from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday and Oct. 12 and from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 27.
News researcher Linda Niemi contributed to this report.
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