SARANAC LAKE - One person who inquired about buying the Hotel Saranac from the Arora family is local resident Lee Keet.
No deal was struck, and Keet told the Enterprise Monday he was never sure if he would invest in the downtown landmark. He would have needed "a full architectural review and engineering analysis, including tests for faulty wiring, asbestos, structural defects, etc.," but he said manager Sewa Arora, after talking with Keet's lawyer, declined to let architects inspect the building.
Arora wouldn't confirm or deny these details.
The Hotel Saranac is seen from Academy Street in Saranac Lake last week.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"The deal with the hotel is made privately, business to business," Arora said Tuesday. "It is not going to be made in the political arena, in the media or in the poker game."
The hotel is a very different enterprise from the kind Keet is used to. His company, Vanguard Atlantic, invests in software and other high-tech services. But as a fourth-generation Saranac Laker and eighth-generation Adirondacker, he has "grave concerns about the deterioration of the hotel's condition and business," he said.
"I was just worried about what it's doing to the town," Keet said. "This winter I was counting lights on (at night) in the hotel, and I think I counted two."
The hotel's customer traffic has dried up quite a bit since the Aroras bought it from Paul Smith's College in early 2007. The restaurant and pub downstairs have been closed for several years, and "for lease" signs have hung in the front windows for more than a year. Its parking lot is empty of vehicles most days. Downtown merchants say the business they used to get from the hotel's guests has disappeared.
Arora has said repeatedly that there's no way he could have run the hotel like the college, which consistently lost money in running it as a teaching institution, not a business. Arora has said he had to make "drastic" reductions to make it profitable.
Keet said he doesn't think Arora's approach is sustainable.
"His views of how to run a hotel - every time you lose a dollar of revenue, drop $1.05 in cost," Keet said.
Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau has said he and other village staff have sent several potential buyers to the Hotel Saranac, all of whom were willing to spend "millions of dollars" to purchase and restore it, but none was able to come to terms with Arora.
Arora, whose family owns the hotel under the name Sardeshwari Enterprises, contends that the potential buyers simply weren't willing to meet his asking price, which went up to $2 million this year.
"When we bought the hotel, we bought the hotel for the long haul," he said Tuesday. "We did not to buy the hotel to flip it." He said a 2010 bypass surgery made him open to the possibility of selling the hotel, but he has not listed it for sale.
"The hotel is not for sale," he said, "but everything is for sale for the right price."
Keet said he is still interested in helping revive the hotel, and he thinks that requires a change in ownership.
"I'm interested in solving this problem," he said.
Contact Peter Crowley at 518-891-2600 ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org.