SARANAC LAKE - Paul Smith's College has turned down Sewa Arora's offer to run the Hotel Saranac's restaurants.
Arora, whose family purchased the hotel from the college in 2007, said he had a telephone conversation with PSC President John Mills, who reportedly told him the college isn't interested in returning to the hotel.
Arora told the Enterprise last week that he was willing to lease the hotel's food service operations to the college, which could once again use it as the practicum site for its culinary program, for $1 a year.
"I said, 'John, you saw the article and what my offer is, do you want to get together?' and he said, 'No. We're not interested,'" Arora said.
PSC spokesman Ken Aaron said the college plans to continue using its on-campus restaurant as the site for its practicum.
"While we appreciate Mr. Arora's offer, at this time, we're satisfied with our present training arrangement on campus, where our students operate the St. Regis Cafe," Aaron said in a prepared statement.
Arora said last week that he wanted to bring the college back to the hotel to try and rebuild the sour relationship that's developed between his family and the community. Many local residents feel the 84-year-old hotel, once the economic anchor of the downtown and a key social hub in Saranac Lake, has fallen off under the Aroras' ownership. Its restaurants and bar are closed, the hotel's parking lot is empty of vehicles most days, and local people no longer recommend the hotel to visiting family and friends. Downtown merchants who used to draw customers from the Main Street hotel have seen that business disappear.
Arora has said that he had to make changes to how the hotel was being run - cutting personnel costs and then closing the bar and the two restaurants - in order to make it profitable. It was consistently losing money under the college's ownership, but the college's goal was to train students, not make money.
Arora has acknowledged the bad blood between himself and the community, but said he now feels like he's done what he can - offering to lease the restaurants to the college - to try and shore up that relationship.
"At least I did my part," he said.
Asked what he'll do now, Arora said he'll continue to seek other tenants for the restaurant space. Otherwise, things will be status quo at the hotel.
"We're still trying to lease it out," he said. "I had said that because of my health reasons that I would sell the place, but there isn't any line of people to buy the hotel. So we are going to keep running it as it is. What else can we do?"