Formal notice has been sent to the long list of creditors to which Crowne Plaza Hotel owner Zeus Investments LLC owes money. As expected, the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Troubles for the Houston-based company that transformed the Hotel Acadiana on Pinhook Road into a Crowne Plaza Hotel, the upscale offering of the Holiday Inn chain, have been brewing from the start of the $10 million renovation that began in February 2008.
The project was under way for almost a year without the proper permits required by the city — and the unlicensed contractors who started the job performed subpar work that forced local officials to temporarily shut down the project in February 2009. By the time the cease and desist order was given, the massive renovations had not received a single inspection for plumbing, mechanical and electrical work taking place at the hotel.
Dodging public building inspections is an egregious violation of state and local laws, especially when the inspections are for a hotel that will potentially house hundreds of guests. Read more in this February 2009 ABiz cover story, "Uneasy Lies the Crowne."
The upgrade plans were able to move forward when the company replaced its unlicensed contractors with state-licensed architects, engineers and contractors to finish the work, and the hotel began flying the official Crowne Plaza flag in 2009. But Zeus Investments has since been the target of at least 15 civil lawsuits filed in state district court, all for money owed to various companies that helped with the extensive renovations.
One recent lawsuit, filed Jan. 27 by St. Martin Bank against Zeus Investments, is trying to seize the hotel as collateral for falling behind on a more than $12 million loan. A source close to the bank told The Independent Weekly in early March that five banks are involved in the loan, but it is unclear which banks teamed up and whether they are local. That source also said in early March that Crowne Plaza has been trying to restructure its debts and catch up on its loan payments.
Crowne Plaza General Manager Jeff Keefe did not return a call for comment on the Chapter 11 granted to the company on March 24, but he did offer a prepared statement in early March in response to questions about the company’s financial standing and its ability to make good on its millions of dollars of debt.
In his statement, Keefe cited numerous “challenges” the hotel has faced since the upgrade, including “a longer than anticipated renovation due to contractor fraud, additional hotels being built in the Lafayette market and the direct impact the BP oil spill and drilling moratorium has had on our local economy.”
“The hotel owners have made several changes over the past six months to include hiring a new management company and several key employees, which is having a positive impact on the hotel’s ability to provide superior service,” he said in the statement.
Keefe also noted the reopening of Scandals Nite Club in the hotel, which is expected to open its doors April 13, according to the “Official Scandals Nite Club of Lafayette” Facebook page.
The bankruptcy notice says a creditor meeting for Zeus Investments will be held at 11 a.m. May 10 at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Lafayette office at 214 Jefferson St.
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NOV 26 Zach Kopplin, who we came to know and love when he was a Louisiana high school student lobbying for the continued inclusion of science stuff in science class, pens this post in The Atlantic about a "textbook" available for social studies instruction in Texas that discusses how Moses contributed to the Constitution. (Oy! Texas rednecks love Jews. Who knew?)
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NOV 26 Jim Brown, like many of us Louisiana voters, seems fed up with out of town know-it-alls trying to tell us what to do. Bill Cassidy can't make it through the day without flying someone in to "tell us political retards" how to vote, he says.
NOV 26 Blogger Tom Aswell is writing about the behavior of the two finalists in the 6th Congressional District race: Edwin Edwards and Garret Graves. Edwards has come out swinging, but Graves' campaign seems bent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Tom says.
NOV 26 Unless you're in Virigina, you shouldn't count on seeing our Governor on Election Day. Mark Ballard writes in the Advocate's political blog that Bobby will be appearing at a GOP love fest of some kind there, instead of spending the day here.
NOV 26 This post on The Lens takes a look at the ongoing dispute in New Orleans over the banners about the upcoming tax election for the school system. The banners are hanging on schools, and some feel they are promotional, which is not allowed, instead of educational - which is allowed.
NOV 26 Not all college students are focused on football games and parties at this time of year. This post on DIG Baton Rouge recounts an LSU student group that tries to make sure that those who are hungry and homeless are not forgotten by those of us who aren't.
NOV 25 Edwin Edwards took off the gloves on Monday, this post on WAFB tells us. At a Press Club appearance, he wondered how his 6th Congressional District opponent, Garret Graves, could be an expert in all the areas in which he claims to be - when he has no college degree in anything. (Five years - FIVE YEARS - in college, but no degree. Huh?)
NOV 25 Blogger Mike Deshotels offers this primer on predatory charter schools and how they operate, specifically in Louisiana. They're not just profiting from our tax dollars, they're using children and shortchanging them to do so, Deshotels says.
NOV 25 Here's a link to the petition that has been created to save Zeus, a family dog who is targeted for death by the learned fathers of the Avoyelles Parish village of Moreauville. They passed an ordinance based on nothing that outlaws pit bulls and Rotweillers. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 230,000 signatures - a number that's a wee bit higher than the village population of 929.
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