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Venice lease for sale

January 27, 2004|BY JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

The Venice Inn's lease is for sale again.

The owner of the hotel-restaurant complex is selling the 99-year lease for the 431 Dual Highway complex at a public auction at the Venice at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, according to the published auction advertisement and the attorney representing the bank that holds the lease.

The hotel will continue to operate as normal until the lease is purchased, said Edward Button, a Hagerstown criminal defense and bankruptcy attorney representing the bank.

Button said he anticipated that anyone buying the lease, which includes making the $25,000 monthly lease payments, would continue to operate the Venice Inn as a hotel.

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Roberta Harner, the hotel's assistant general manager, said the hotel has plenty of business on the books, including conventions, for the time period after the auction.

The buyer of the lease is not obligated to continue operating the Venice Inn as a hotel. However, the auction ad states the buyer will be required to "assume all unperformed contracts with customers."

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said city officials do not plan to bid on the Venice property. The property had been discussed as a possible site for a new hospital and was suggested by a consultant as a possible site for a convention center.

With the state of the economy and the city giving priority to revitalizing downtown, this is not the time for the city to bid on the hotel complex, Breichner said.

The lease includes the 116-room hotel, a 125-room motel, a two-story restaurant, an Olympic-sized pool and the 420 E. Antietam St. building housing Little Caesars Pizza.

At a February 2000 auction, the bank that holds the lease made the high bid of $2.5 million for the lease after only one private group bid for the hotel, according to The Herald-Mail archives.

If bank officials don't like the high bid at the February auction, it appears they won't bid against it, Button said.

The auction ad that ran in Saturday's edition of The Herald-Mail states the lease will be "sold to the highest bidder regardless of price" and that "the owner will not bid at the sale."

The hotel is owned by Venice Inn Limited Liability Corp. and managed by New Jersey-based Horizon Hotels, according to Button and Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records.

The lease is owned by U.S. Bank Trust National Association, Trustee, a Minnesota banking company, Button said. Cleveland-based Metropolitan Bank & Trust has been acting as an agent for the Minnesota bank, he said.

Metropolitan recently was merged into Sky Bank, according to Sky Bank's Web site.

The bank took over the lease after Nielsen Enterprises defaulted on the lease payments in 1999, Button said.

The hotel employs 40 people, Harner said. The restaurant has been closed for about 11/2 years, she said.

Venice Inn LLC is delinquent on $3,984 in real estate tax, Washington County Treasurer Todd Hershey said.

The company owes the city $2,888 in real estate tax and $1,559 in personal property tax, Hagerstown Treasurer Stephen Wolfensberger said.

The real estate taxes are for 420 E. Antietam St.

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