|By Larry Rulison, Albany Times Union,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 8, 2010 --CATSKILL -- The Friar Tuck Inn, a sprawling 500-room hotel and conference center, has closed after its owners fought for months to remain open.
The resort, opened by Caridi family in 1971, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September with $4 million in debts, including a $3.5 million mortgage held by Ulster Savings Bank.
But the bank, which recently took possession of the property, decided this week to close the resort as it searches for a buyer.
"It's closed for the time being," Richard Weisz, an attorney for the bank said after a hearing Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Albany.
Judge Robert Littlefield Jr., who is overseeing the case, was furious when he discovered the Caridis accepted a $12,000 deposit from the Latin American Pentecostal Council of New York for a weekend retreat April 16-18 less than a month ago without telling the group that the resort was in bankruptcy court and up for sale.
"My problem is that they just took the money," Littlefield said during Wednesday's hearing. "That speaks volumes."
Members of the Caridi family did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. The family has been tight-lipped ever since a $4.5 million deal to sell the property at auction fell through in November with an Oklahoma real estate investor.
Although the hotel and conference center have closed, the family is still operating Nottingham Village, its timeshare and efficiency apartment operation. Littlefield, who dismissed the Friar Tuck case Wednesday because the bank has taken over, is also considering pushing those assets into a Chapter 7 liquidation case.
The Friar Tuck was opened by New York City restaurant owner Salvatore "Rick" Caridi, who died last Thursday at home in the town. His family had been operating the business.
Although its amenities have become rundown and outdated in recent years, the Friar Tuck was once a popular destination for medium-sized conventions for groups like the Sons of Italy, featuring a dining room with seating for 2,000 people.
It also hosted well-known bands and even boxing in its heyday and was the first hotel in New York state to get Off-Track Betting in 1990.
On Tuesday, family members Rossario and Ricky Caridi signed an agreement with the bank to return more than $20,000 in deposits to customers and settle its payroll and sales tax bills, which total $13,300.
Greene County economic development officials are hopeful that the resort can find a buyer who can reopen the businesses as soon as possible.
Interim County Administrator Daniel Frank, a member of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency board, said there had been ideas floated in the past of turning it into a water park.
"The Friar Tuck is kind of a unique property," Frank said. "The real question is what is a suitable reuse. We're anxious to get something back in there."
Larry Rulison can be reached at 454-5504 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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