|By Cody Switzer, Erie Times-News,
Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Aug. 3, 2006 - Service at the Downtown Erie Hotel is improving, its general manager said.
Tyrone Lewis said the breakfast menu has been expanded, the hotel's interior is cleaner, and its exterior shines in the night.
"It looks like Vegas with all the lighting," Lewis said.
It certainly looks nothing like it did just six months ago, he said.
The hotel, at 18 W. 18th St., has been altered and otherwise improved since late January, when Bank of the West took back the hotel from its then-owner, SNS LLC. Bank of the West plans to eventually put the hotel up for sale. Officials from SNS could not be reached for comment.
The most recent change at the hotel took place about a week ago, when a new sign went up.
The hotel had lost its Ramada Inn franchise on July 12, 2005, said a spokeswoman for Cendant Corp., the hotel chain's parent company. She declined to say why the hotel lost its franchise.
On Jan. 25, Bank of the West declared the hotel's $1.5 million mortgage to be in default and put Kirby Payne, president of HVS/American Hospitality Management Co., in charge of the 133-room hotel and restaurant, according to court documents.
On Jan. 26, HVS took over without having to close the hotel, Lewis said. Most of the hotel's staff -- except for management -- remained employed.
The company has since worked to improve the hotel.
"The key thing here though is that the bank really cares about it being a safe place, a clean place, a good place to work, and they want to manage it that way," Payne said.
At first, Payne thought he had his work cut out for him.
The hotel was "probably not as well-maintained or as clean as guests in the local community might have expected it to be," Payne said.
Since then, HVS has done some minor remodeling, updated some safety precautions by adding new fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, and repaired an elevator that hadn't worked properly.
The hotel, which also added a turndown service, now offers wireless Internet and a new Web site that allows guests to book easily at www.downtowneriehotel.com.
The bank will eventually list the property for sale with a local real estate agent, Payne said. HVS, which continues to operate the business, will leave when the hotel is sold.
"If anyone wants to buy it, there it is," Payne said.
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