LEWISTON – After years of dodging foreclosure and bankruptcy, the Barton Hill Hotel in Lewiston has been taken over by a New York City investment firm.
Robin Kirk, CEO of Scout Hotels, said Thursday that his firm has signed a long-term contract to operate the Barton Hill for its new owners, Stabilis Capital Management.
Scout Hotels is based in Nantucket, Mass., and operates six resorts on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, one in Florida and one about to be acquired in New Hampshire.
The 70-room hotel on the Niagara River fits right into their portfolio, Kirk said. “Barton Hill is in an absolutely spectacular location. We like the structure very much indeed,” he said.
Kirk said Scout intends to make sure the basics of hotel operations are attended to, while improving marketing and enlarging the staff.
“Nothing about the market worries us,” Kirk said. He said the hotel needs “a more flexible approach to rates year-round and much better marketing.”
“We do know how to run a seasonal resort hotel. We are forecasting a very solid summer season,” he said.
Kirk said he expects the Barton Hill will continue to operate year-round.
Stabilis won control of the Barton Hill from its original owners, Edward and Diane Finkbeiner of Lewiston, in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court settlement dated April 1. Stabilis had acquired the hotel’s delinquent mortgage, originally issued in 2007 by CIT Lending Corp. and twice transferred after that.
CIT filed a mortgage foreclosure action against the Finkbeiners in 2009, and the foreclosure was approved in State Supreme Court in 2011. Since then, the Finkbeiners have been trying to avoid having the hotel auctioned off, while at the same time trying to prevent Niagara County from foreclosing because of unpaid property taxes.
The court settlement says Stabilis was owed more than $10.2 million in principal and interest on the mortgage. The Finkbeiners’ company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Oct. 29, which prevented foreclosure. However, Stabilis sought to dismiss the bankruptcy filing, and in the settlement, grabbed the hotel and all its assets.
The County Treasurer’s Office said $500,948 in taxes and penalties are owed in unpaid county, town, village and school taxes dating back to 2009. The hotel also has been hit with 50 state or federal liens for delinquent tax payments since 2010, 37 of which are still unpaid, according to records at the County Clerk’s Office. Kirk promised that all taxes would be paid.
The Finkbeiners’ attorneys did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.