The long journey of the Quality Inn at 100 Morris St. in its effort to resume operations appears to have reached its conclusion after the members of the Revere License Commission, chairperson Robert Selevitch and fellow members Daniel Occena and Linda Guinasso, gave their conditional approval for the hotel to reopen at their meeting last Wednesday, February 15, in the City Council Chamber.
The hotel’s owner, Sudguru Hotel, LLC, closed the hotel at the start of the pandemic, but has faced a number of obstacles in its attempt to reopen, most notably burst pipes that required extensive repairs and reinspections from city departments and an inability to find qualified employees to operate and manage the hotel.
In addition, the hotel drew unexpected criticism from city officials in the fall of 2021 when former Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janney suggested that the hotel could serve as a temporary shelter for Boston’s homeless population from the Mass. and Cass intersection.
However, after three years of travails, the hotel, which had operated uneventfully for many years prior to the pandemic, is ready to resume its normal operations.
Last week’s meeting had been scheduled as a status update from the hotel’s management — and the commissioners were told that the hotel is awaiting the final sign-offs from various city departments.
“We have made lots of progress,” said Beth Scherer of Sudguru, who previously has appeared before the commission. “There is nothing left to do other than to have the electrical inspector come back out in order to ensure that we have replaced the wiring as requested by the inspector.”
“We’ve received a lot of correspondence from city officials acknowledging that you have been cooperative and have been moving the process along,” said Selevitch.
Guinasso said she had received a letter from Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino, who previously had gone on record as opposing the hotel’s reopening in light of the issues pertaining to the City of Boston, but who now said that everything has been moving along well. Serino requested that the application for a license renewal be approved, pending the final sign-offs by city code officials.
The commissioners had no questions for Scherer and there were no opponents. The commissioners unanimously approved the application for the license renewal, pending receipt of approval for the remaining sign-offs from city departments.
The commission held a lengthy status hearing pertaining to a request by Kenneth G. LaFauci, d/b/a Brothers Auto Body, 16 Naples Road, for approval of a Class 2 Motor Vehicle Dealer license.
LaFauci and his attorney, Atty. Edward Lonergan of Nahant, have appeared numerous times before the commission in recent months seeking the license renewal. The sticking point has been the failure by LaFauci to pay outstanding fines of $24,500 (which now exceed $31,000 with interest) stemming from 49 tickets for code violations dating back to 2016 that were issued by city departments.
Lonergan told the commission at last week’s meeting, as he had at prior meetings, that LaFauci is contesting the validity of the violations and has brought the matter to court. He noted that about $10,000 of other tickets for code violations had been dismissed by the city in the Chelsea District Court and suggested that the $31,000 that is outstanding also will be resolved in LaFauci’s favor.
However, Lonergan noted that the judicial process will take time. The matter already has had a tortuous litigation route, having started in the district court, proceeded to Superior Court, then making its way to federal court, and now has been remanded back to Superior Court. In addition, there is a companion case that has been filed by the city in the Land Court for tax title because the outstanding fines have been levied on the property tax bill.
Lonergan asked the commission to grant LaFauci the license pending the outcome of the litigation.
“This is a small businessman on a small street in a small building,” said Lonergan, who noted that the city’s interest is fully-protected because it has imposed a tax lien on the property. “He is being persecuted and there is no basis for this level of intensity. The matter of the fines is being litigated in the courts. This is a terrible ordeal and there is no purpose being served. We’ve been trying to work this out with the city, but have not been able to do so. We are litigating this in good faith and I would ask that the license be approved.”
However, Atty. Anthony Brunco from the firm of D’Ambrosio, LLP, the outside counsel representing the city in this matter, clarified the city’s position.
“The code enforcement tickets issued against the property were not appealed properly and have been applied to the property tax bills,” said Brunco, who noted that the unpaid tickets now have become liens on the property.
“The city’s position at this point is that there are no mitigating factors and there is an obligation to pay this tax,” Brunco added. Brunco also noted that the present action in Superior Court is the wrong venue because the matter belongs in Land Court. He further stated that the city had agreed to dismiss the $10,000 of other tickets in an effort to resolve the issue.
However, he said that because the tickets that are the subject of the lien were not appealed properly, the city has no ability to dismiss the tickets at this time.
“So the bottom line is that it is the city’s position that they have not complied with the terms we requested in November,” Selevitch said to Brunco, referring to the commission’s position that the matter had to be resolved one way or another before the commission would take any action to grant the license.
However, Lonergan interjected, “There is no public purpose being served to penalize Mr. LaFauci more than he has been to date.” Lonergan then charged that Selevitch has had “an attitude that I find difficult to comprehend and an animosity toward Mr. LaFauci. If we are wrong, there is no downside to the city because the city will be totally compensated,” continued Lonergan, who also asserted that the reason the city dropped the tickets in Chelsea District Court is because the city was wrong to have issued the tickets in the first place.
Selevitch denied that he has any animosity toward LaFauci and then noted, “I’ve been on this board for a few years and never have seen the State Police ask the commission not to issue a license and that happened in this case because of the conduct of the business and the way they were conducting it. I take that very seriously and it is part of my reasoning for why I am opposed. I believe that this license should cease today. I have heard all of the excuses and all of the reasons, and if subsequently it comes out that you prevail in court and don’t owe this money, you are more than welcome to come back and ask for a license from this body.”
Occena questioned Brunco about Lonergan’s point that the city’s interests are fully-protected. Selevitch also questioned Brunco whether the city would pay back the $31,000 if Brothers paid it and the court subsequently found in Brothers’ favor. However, there were no definitive answers to either question.
The attorneys then went back and forth with the commission about the status of the matters in the Land Court and Superior Court.
Occena then offered his view of the situation.
“As one of the newer members, I tried to afford Mr. LaFauci the opportunity to operate his license in the City of Revere,” said Occena. “As I sit today, as we know it right now, the tax debt is valid until we are told otherwise, and he needs to be in good standing, with all taxes and liens paid up.
“But one thing that stands out to me,” Occena continued, “is that he is going forward in good faith and this is not a frivolous lawsuit. I can’t ignore that. But there is a conflicting interest, giving equal weight to the city, because as it stands now, there is a valid tax title by the city.”
Occena then said, “I cannot decide and will abstain from voting.”
Guinasso then added her views.
“I agree with both of my colleagues,” she said. “We are not allowed to renew licenses if you owe taxes.”
LaFauci himself then addressed the commission.
“I don’t know what you have against me,” to which Guinasso said she was offended by that accusation. However, Guinasso offered a compromise solution.
“I would move that we not renew the license at this time and you can come back in six months in order to get this matter settled in court,” Guinasso said.
Lonergan then spoke up, “We’ll pay the money in 60 days.”
The commission then approved the license for 60 days, with the understanding that all money owed to the city is to be paid by that time, and if so, the matter will be deemed closed.