AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Hotel California still is not open for business near Interstate 80 and Route 46 in Austintown.
On Monday, the folks behind the hotel wanted to open its doors to show the public what it looks like inside, but things did not go as planned.
An open house was scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, but at 6 p.m., Austintown police and fire officials showed up to shut it down. The fire chief said the department has not done any final fire or alarm inspection at the property, and it was in violation of fire code.
A few hundred people were sent home and some were turned away at the door.
It is no secret there has been a back and forth between Austintown Township officials and Hotel California president Sebastian Rucci. It dates back to Rucci’s previous business venture, the Go Go Cabaret.
Monday was another chapter in the saga, but it was something Rucci admitted was his mistake.
“There are just screw-ups that happen in business and this one is attributed actually 100 percent to me,” Rucci said.
With close to 400 people inside Hotel California for the first time, with live music playing and food being served, it all came to a screeching halt when police and fire officials arrived on the scene.
“My first thought was like ‘can I show you around?’ because I thought it was a visit. And they were like ‘no, it’s official business’,” Rucci said.
Apparently Rucci and his team did not have the proper occupancy permits, and have not had the Austintown Fire Department out to do a final inspection.
“And it just violates fire code, and we were forced, had to ask him to ask his folks to leave,” Austintown Fire Chief Andy Frost said.
Cooler heads prevailed between hotel management and township leaders, but some of the guests did not see it that way.
“These people create jobs, they pay taxes, I’ll bet they don’t mind taking their taxes and using them, but all of a sudden they get a chance to make money, to pay those taxes and they take that away from them,” Joe Mazzant of Hermitage said.
“Well, it’s a little disappointing for everybody. Everybody was sort of anticipating getting to see what the place looked like. It was kind of exciting,” Doug Dobransky of Hollywood, Calif., said.
Meanwhile, Rucci has a hearing scheduled for Thursday with township and county leaders over the hotel’s liquor license. And he is facing a federal trademark lawsuit over the name Hotel California, not with the Eagles, but a guy who runs a 36-room hotel in Santa Monica.
The fire chief said none of that played into what happened Monday night.
“The only thing I care about is that the building is safe when people are inside and I have to ensure that. That is my responsibility. That is my job,” Frost said.
Frost and Rucci said they will schedule that fire inspection soon.
As for the trademark lawsuit, Rucci said he is not worried, but he says worst case scenario is they will change the name to Hotel Kalifornia with a “K,” Hotel California of Ohio, or Hotel California Entertainment Complex. With or without that liquor license, they hope to be open by the end of the month, when live horse racing starts at the nearby racino.