The Columbia Heart Beat

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TROUBLED TIGER, TWO: New concerns surface about Tiger Hotel, TIF problems

Will publicly-financed owner Glyn Laverick return from the U.K?

COLUMBIA, 5/21/12 (Beat Byte) -- Between City Hall's push to spread tax increment financing -- TIFs -- around the central city, and the Tiger Hotel's status as Columbia's most high-profile TIF, the nearly 2-month absence of hotel owner Glyn Laverick is raising renewed concerns about the project's future.

To fully restore it into over 60 opulent rooms, Laverick purchased the hotel in March 2011 after a string of high-profile failures in Canada, Missouri, and the U.K., some of which had the British impresario quietly disappearing as bills piled up, creditors called, and evictions commenced.
 
"Laverick has conducted business like he's always conducted business -- leaving a path of destruction and disappointment," Oshawa, Ontario, Canada Mayor John Gray told reporters about Laverick's misadventure in his city renovating the historic Regent Theatre.
 
Earlier this year, the popular restaurant Bleu suddenly relocated to the former Boone Tavern building, and Laverick has continued to push his renovation timeline back. A September letter from downtown CID director Carrie Gartner to REDI officials suggested inclusion of hotels in enhanced enterprise zones based on the Tiger's continued financial difficulties.
 
Word of Laverick's departure started to circulate this March.

"Glyn Laverick returned to England this past week, leaving for what was thought to be a trip to visit family," a source informed the Columbia Heart Beat on April 5. "He is now stuck there under what is claimed to be VISA issues."
 
Another source followed up this month. "Laverick left Columbia two months ago and hasn't returned. I've heard that the hotel is a mess."
 
The hotel's condition seems arguable at this point. In recent online reviews, some see a delight; others, a disaster.
 
"I don't know what all the low ratings are for, I stayed in the hotel last weekend and my room was amazing," one reviewer wrote.
 
"Dealing with the Tiger Hotel has been an incredibly frustrating experience, and I wish I had chosen another hotel from the start," wrote another reviewer. "Not a 4 star hotel. They woke us up at 7:30 in the morning with hammering and construction that continued throughout the day the length if our stay," wrote a third reviewer. "The fitness center listed online has not even been built yet. Our room was dusty and we constantly woke up with allergies and asthma. We're moving to another hotel tonight."
 
A family health crisis -- not immigration issues -- has kept Laverick home, he told the Columbia Heart Beat. "Not that it is the concern of anyone outside of my family, but I am in England to be with my grandmother who is recuperating after a serious heart attack coupled with other complications," Laverick explained.

The Heart Beat asked for a public tour of the facility, on pre-arranged dates, so members of the public -- Laverick's partners in the $1.8 million TIF project -- could see the renovation progress for themselves.
 
But Laverick declined, instead offering a different option.

"You are most welcome for a personal tour and I would be happy to give you one upon my return in early June," he said. "Should you feel the need to tour the hotel at an earlier date I can arrange for one of my very capable staff to assist you." Sleeping rooms are presently available on the 8th and 9th floors, Laverick added, "with rooms on the 6th and 7th floor becoming available within the next month."
 
Dave Baugher and John Ott, the former Tiger Hotel owners who sold the building and transferred the TIF to Laverick -- but retain a financial interest -- did not respond to repeated requests for comment.