Former Motel 6 has business license revoked Tuesday
The motel formerly known as Motel 6 near the intersection of McFarland and Skyland boulevards in Tuscaloosa can no longer operate after the city council revoked the owner’s business license Tuesday.
After years of complaints and months of talks, the Tuscaloosa City Council heard arguments from city workers and attorney Cam Parsons, who represented the owner of the motel.
The motel is owned by CT Hotels, LLC, and is no longer affiliated with the Motel 6 brand. Currently, it is known as Best Nights Inn.
Tuscaloosa Police Investigator Brian Champion with the Tuscaloosa Police Department said the business was examined by the Tuscaloosa Fire Marshal, health department and other organizations on Feb. 10. Images shown from that inspection include mattresses with mold and other fluids, bugs, rotted wood on balconies and water-damaged rooms.
On that day, Champion said there were 128 rooms available for rent. By the end of the inspection, there were only 28 rooms that passed the inspection and remained available for rent.
Another complaint is that people at the hotel were staying more than 30 days, including several employees who were living there. Several other people who were staying at the hotel were not listed on the hotel’s records.
Between May 2019 and April 2022, there were 695 responses to the motel, ranging from robbery to prostitution and drug calls. The motel’s current owner took over the location in May 2019, and Champion said the number of calls increased after the latest owner took control of the property.
Comparatively, similar motels in the area had less than 200 calls during the same period.
“Motel 6 keeps a lot of our officers tied up in calls,” Champion said.
Most recently, an employee at the motel reported that there was a woman soliciting prostitution and walking around the property nude, he said.
Tuscaloosa Fire Marshal Patrick Stines said there were numerous fire code violations around the property on Feb. 10, including a lack of smoke alarms and improper storage of flammable materials and other items, but those issues were corrected before a subsequent inspection.
Stines said there have been similar issues during past years during fire inspections, but those were also corrected.
Barry Junkin with the Tuscaloosa Department of Housing and Urban Development said issues at the motel included the damaged balconies, dismantled rooms and one room that had been retrofitted into a suite without a permit.
Junkin said the motel owner applied for a permit to fix the balconies and it was approved on Tuesday.
Rhonda Williams with the Tuscaloosa County Public Health Department said their inspection Feb. 10 revealed violations including mold, holes in the ceilings, waterlogged carpets and damaged mattresses.
Charnae Wells with the health department visited the motel for a follow-up visit April 19. Wells said what she saw during the inspection was “way worse” than what she sees during most motel inspections.
Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley said he’s reviewed the motel’s history and recommended that the city revoke the owner’s business license.
“As a patrol officer there are two hotels that you know you’re going to go to before the weekend is up,” Blankley said. “Masters Economy and Motel 6. Masters Economy is no more. We’re asking for you to pull Motel 6. It is a hindrance to the city. It is a haven for crime.”
You can look at the crime statistics for businesses nearby and realize it’s not the area, Blankley said. It’s the motel.
Attorney Cam Parsons, who represented the motel owner, said the owners have been making efforts to address the problems the city has with the business.
Parsons said since the new owners acquired the property in 2019, they’ve installed laminated flooring throughout the property, painted guest rooms, installed new lighting around the property, replaced furniture around the property, installed wifi and made other improvements.
“It’s not like they haven’t done anything,” Parsons said. These issues were problems the new owners inherited, and they’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into improving the business.
Parsons requested that the council instead put the business on probation so the business can make major changes and bring the property back up to code because the owners, who are out of state, were not fully aware of all the issues.
“You’re looking at an out-of-town company that, once they do these repairs, have probably more than $3 million invested in this property,” Parsons said. “That’s not chump change.”
District 7 City Council Member Cassius Lanier, who represents the area where the motel sits, said what’s been done is not close to enough.
“I think the message we’re sending to new developers is that you won’t come in our city and develop or acquire something and leave it trashed or don’t maintain it,” Lanier said. “What we’re telling them is you can’t come and be a slum lord. You can’t come and leave blight. You can come and run a drug trafficking or crime ring in our city.”
Tuscaloosa isn’t having it, Lanier said, and it’s coming after business owners who can’t keep up.
“The message we send if we let you keep your license is you can do anything in the city of Tuscaloosa,” Lanier said. “You can run any kind of business and we’re going to give you a spank on the hand and probation. As somebody who didn’t get probation, I’m not giving probation today.”
When he won the race for District 7, Lanier said he’d clean up the district. He’s doing exactly that.
“Masters Inn was the first one,” Lanier said. “Motel 6 is up next. It’s not a vendetta against anything. It’s just because you were not proactive, you were reactive. For that reason, we’re gonna take that license.”
The vote to revoke the motel’s license was unanimous.
In other city council news, debate over a proposed 190-bed apartment complex was tabled for six weeks.
You can watch the full City Council meeting right here.