Presidential Inn is shut down
Mayor pulls license, court denies appeal
By Steve Metsch
Just three vehicles were parked in the lot at The Presidential Inn in Lyons on Friday, one day after a Cook County judge denied an emergency motion to stay a business license revocation.
The motel, 3922 S. Harlem Ave., long a site of shady activity, said village officials, is no longer open for business
Judge John Hynes denied the owners’ emergency motion request at the Bridgeview Court House on April 18, Lyons village attorney Mark Sterk said.
Sterk said any residents living in the motel are expected to move out immediately. A briefing on the complaint for administrative review is up for argument on May 30, Sterk said.
The request was in response to the business license being revoked by Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty on April 12.
Getty decided that enough was enough after years of criminal activity – including alleged prostitution, drugs and murder – at the well-worn motel that’s been in business for decades on busy Harlem Avenue.
The motel “presents a clear and present danger to its own employees, guests, to the citizens of Lyons and to the at-large public,” according to Getty’s order to revoke the license.
The Presidential Inn $ Suites, long a source of criminal activity, according to the village of Lyons, has been shut down by Mayor Christopher Getty, who revoked the business license. A bid by the owner to remain open was denied in court. Photo by Steve Metsch.
On Friday, the motel’s owner, Shashank Bhat, said criminal activity “has gone down quite a bit” and added he has no control over what guests do in rooms they rent.
“Most of the people are very nice, very friendly,” Bhat said. “We never had any prostitution, except for one or two (over the 22 years he’s been the owner.)”
“If someone, boyfriend and girlfriend, get into a fight in a room and call 911, we have no control over that. We only know when the squad car pulls up,” Bhat said.
He said he and his ownership team have worked hard to make The Presidential Inn better, noting they recently had new windows installed.
“We have 65 rooms. They’re all very fancy rooms. It’s not a hole-in-the-wall operation,” Bhat said.
Years ago, the motel had a swimming pool and rented out memberships to local residents. On Friday, a van in the parking lot appeared to be packed with the owner’s belongings.
Thomas Kantas, a Palos Heights-based attorney representing the owner, did not return a phone call.
Getty said there have “been numerous incidents that involve crime” at the motel.
“We’ve met with the owner on multiple occasions. Our previous police chief, Jim Keating, told them ‘we want you to right this ship’,” Getty said.
Current Lyons Police Chief Tom Herion said “we’ve been there a lot.”
The last straw for Getty was gunplay between two men that resulted in one being shot to death in December. Bhat said he had no control over that incident.
“The girl opened the door for someone at 4 in the morning, jumped out of the room and jumped into a van. The guy shot the other man. Then they van sped away with the woman,” Bhat said. “How do we control that at 3 or 4 in the morning?”
Bhat did not attend a two-day hearing on the license revocation at the village hall, Getty said, and “their attorney didn’t put up much of a case.”
The first hearing was held on Feb. 28, and the second on April 4.
The village entered into the record a 20-page report that detailed all the known criminal activity at the motel over the past five years.
“It’s good that we send a message that we don’t tolerate this,” Getty said.
“This is the first time I’ve ever taken away anybody’s business license. And that’s a big business that’s been in town for at least 60 years,” Getty said.
The village provided a list of problems over the years in Getty’s order. Included are:
- A person was shot and killed and another person wounded on Dec. 6, 2018;
- A woman overdosed on heroin on May 15, 2018;
- Lyons Fire Department personnel were called to the motel on Nov. 25, 2017, after a customer was found dead after an overdose;
- A woman needed 40 stitches after she was punched in the face by a man during an argument on Nov. 17, 2017;
- Police responded to a fight that involved 10 people on Aug. 27, 2017;
- Police encountered a naked woman who had been kicked out of a room on March 28, 2017;
- A woman was robbed at gunpoint on July 21, 2016;
- A woman known by the name “Sensation” stole money from a man after she ran from his room on Jan. 16, 2016;
- A woman stole a man’s car on May 8, 2015, after she had stayed the night with him;
- Two women, naked and bleeding, were found fighting in a room on March 31, 2014;
- A man told police his iPhone was stolen on July 21, 2013, by a woman he had met on a dating site and brought him to the hotel for sex.
According to the village, since Jan. 1, 2013, more than 500 emergency calls were made from the motel or on the premises
“This high volume,” the complaint says, “not only represents a tremendous burden on village resources and finances, they are (a) barometer of crime in the community and specifically at (the) Presidential Inn.”
Bhat said the hotel fills a need, noting number of contractors have stayed at the Presidential Inn for weeks on end.
“And, then, there are all the lovebirds from Berwyn and Chicago, Summit and Cicero, they just come for the fun, you know,” Bhat added. “There is no prostitution. No drug dealing. When we find out, we throw them out.”
Getty is not sure what will happen to the building, located in a prime location on Harlem Avenue, saying “someone else may buy it.”
Bhat remains hopeful he will be allowed to re-open the motel. About half his 15 employees live in Lyons, he said.
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