CLEARWATER — The owner of a hotel where police battled drug activity has agreed to work with the city to reduce crime on his property.
Amish Patel, the owner of the Clearwater Hotel near the intersection of U.S. 19 and Gulf to Bay Boulevard, has promised the city’s Nuisance Abatement Board that he will refuse to rent to bad actors, add an after-hours security person, and undertake other measures to limit criminal activity on his property. Multiple drug arrests on the property led the board to declare his hotel an unlawful public nuisance at a March 4 hearing.
Patel, who is negotiating with national hotel and motel chains to franchise his inn, told the Beacon he would adopt improvements the board ordered.
“I am in absolute agreement that it is the duty of any property owner or home owner to work with the city to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward,” Patel said. “We should represent the city to visitors who come and show them this is a great city — come visit us, come stay with us.”
The board’s order requires Patel to:
• Patel is prohibited from renting rooms to anyone police have arrested on the premises in the past. The police will identify those individuals for the hotel.
• If those guests are on the property, hotel must begin eviction proceedings.
• The hotel is not allowed to rent to anyone who breaks hotel policies.
• All guests must check in at the front desk and produce state-issued ID.
• Guests must register their vehicles at the front desk and display hotel parking permits.
• Parking permits with expiration dates must be displayed in cars owned by guests and visitors.
• Ensure the hotel’s security cameras and related systems must run continually and retain recordings for at least 48 hours.
• Hotel must review and share surveillance footage with police officers upon request
• Designate security person in off-hours, double as front desk person.
• Report suspicious activity to the police.
“Clearwater police will train employees how to spot suspicious activity,” said Assistant City Attorney Matt Smith, who argued the city’s case against the hotel at the hearing. “Because we have come to the agreed order, the city is not going to ask for any costs, just that the board accept the order.”
One stipulation in the March 4 order seemed to reflect a point made by Shyamie Dixit, Patel’s lawyer. In a letter to Smith at the end of February, the lawyer suggested the Clearwater Police Department’s use of confidential informants to purchase drugs on the hotel property had helped create the nuisance activity the city didn’t like.
“Rather than acknowledging Mr. Patel’s and the hotel staff owner’s assistance,” Dixit wrote Smith Feb. 12, “the Clearwater Police Department seems to have taken the position that my client should be held responsible for alleged illegal transactions arranged and consummated by police operatives with individuals on the premises.”
The March 4 Nuisance Board order seems to take the lawyer’s concerns into account. Should police make any arrests after they are called in by Patel or his employees, the nuisance board won’t hold those cases against the hotel, the order states.
“Those instances will not be used against the owner,” Smith told the board. “We don’t want to discourage the owner from cooperating with police.”
The hotel, which Patel operates under the moniker DEVOM LLC, is also bordered by undeveloped lots, one of which is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation. State workers knocked down a transient camp there, Dixit said. Another property, Sinsations, a strip club north of the hotel, is separated by a fence with a hole in it. Patel has closed that hole, which was made to allow a large tree to grow.
Police also agree that Patel permanently locked the back doors of ground-floor hotel rooms to prevent drug trafficking, and other security measures.
Smith said it is up to Patel whether the board acts again.
“If the order is not followed, I can bring the matter of the property back to the board’s attention,” Smith said, “and the board can take appropriate action but everyone is hopeful that will not be necessary.”