The Royal Inn, located at 200 South Broad Street in Winston-Salem, has again come under scrutiny by residents who live nearby.
On July 23 real estate broker Brandon Vickers started a petition on change.org entitled “Declare the Royal Inn a public nuisance and immediately begin the abatement process.” It includes a lengthy list of police incidents recorded between October 24 and June 14 which include possession of various types of drugs, rape, prostitution, malicious injury to property, driving while impaired, trespassing and other disturbances. So far the petition has more than 400 signatures.
Vickers said that in April 2013 the West Salem Neighborhood Association became fed up with the number of incidents and held a public meeting that was attended by police officers, city officials, citizens and the motel’s owners. Ultimately, the owners were given time to rectify the situation, but one year later crime still persists.
“About a year later it doesn’t seem like too much has happened. I’m not pointing fingers or anything, but I think maybe their business model really is broken,” Vickers said.
He said he thinks the crux of the issue is the motel’s lack of a screening process for its guests.
“When you rent a room by the hour for less than $35 and you don’t check people’s identification, and if you have the philosophy that if you pay you can stay, then in essence you begin to invite that broken business model.”
Vickers said there have been no issues related to declining property values, but that the motel’s presence has affected the quality of life for nearby residents.
“Those things affect people’s ability to quietly enjoy their property, whether they’re renters or whether they’re homeowners,” he said.
Vickers said he has not had any recent contact with the owners or city officials and hopes the petition will lead to a voluntary resolution.
According to the Forsyth County GIS database, the building was purchased for $1.5 million on February 29, 2000 by Shri Krishna 2000 Llc. It has a value of $755,488 with the land being worth $434,700.
Arvind Patel, one of the owners in the corporation, said he recently tried to sell the property for $1.25 million, but the investor pulled out at the last minute when they saw Vickers’ petition.
“All of this is because of his (Vickers) outburst in the news,” he said.
Patel claims he is the victim because many of the crimes listed in the police record happened nearby but were attached to the property’s address since it is the closest business around.
Patel grew up in Africa and immigrated to the United States in 1980. He owns a number of Budget motel franchises.
His address is listed as 2302 Williamson Road, Roanoke, Virginia on the Secretary of State’s website, which happens to be the location of the Budget Inn in Roanoke.
According to the website’s document filings, the Shri Krishna 2000 Llc received a citation in 2006 for failing to submit an annual report for 2005. They avoided dissolution by filing a report on March 27, 2006.
He said his business in Winston-Salem fell on hard times during the recession.
“It is a free country,” he said. “When we came into this country we invested our money hoping to make better use of the property and the realty that we have. 2007-2011 was a bad economic time. Economic property suffered, so did my property suffer. We are now trying to get out of the situation.”
Patel said has not considered moving from the neighborhood due to the proximity of BB&T Ballpark, which he thinks provides some security and economic activity. He said he is not legally permitted to screen his customers when they check in.
“I can’t ask a person who is signing the register what kind of business do you do? If I do, I’m violating his privacy,” he said.
“If a woman comes in, I can’t ask her are you going to be a prostitute? Sell your body? I can’t ask that either. So I don’t think the homeowners are justified totally. They may have concerns. I do not deny that. And also, they may have concerns about the neighborhood. But ultimately, to blame one particular property is not a justification. It’s a violation of freedom of speech.”
Patel said his property has not yet been condemned by the city of Winston-Salem, and he is still open to talking with city officials and members of the West Salem Neighborhood Association.
“I have partners,” he said. “I’m sure they would be willing to entertain any reasonable dialogue in trying to come up with a solution.”
Councilwoman Molly Leight said the city has not taken a position on what to do but noted that she attended the neighborhood association’s meeting last year and thinks nothing has changed since then.
“They feel very much like the crime spills over from the bad elements at the Royal Inn into the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a very cheap motel with no appreciable rules.”
Leight said she has seen the petition, and thinks that there are other crime-plagued motels in Winston-Salem that aren’t getting as much attention.
“I’m sure there are others that fall into the same category, it’s just that West Salem has a very active neighborhood association and they’re trying to clean things up,” she said.
Capt. Jay Edwards of the Winston-Salem Police Department said he was familiar with the case of the Royal Inn, but also did not think it was the only motel with crime.
“We are proactive in that area generally, as we are in any other area of the city, and we answer calls for service just like we would anywhere else,” he said. “So I don’t really want to single out the Royal Inn.”
Edwards said they respond to many calls in the area nearby, but did not elaborate on what the boundaries of the neighborhood were.
“What I call a neighborhood or an area, may not fit someone else’s footprint of what they think an area or a neighborhood is,” he said. “It’s all subjective based on your own personal experiences.” !