|Carpet and materials stacked up inside the restaurant at the Hotel on the Falls|
The chainlink fence came down after property owner Dane Watkins signed a joint operating agreement with Colorado Hospitality Services of Northglenn, Colo., which bought the eight-story, 85-room tower at an auction in January for $2.3 million. Under the agreement, Watkins is leasing the space to Colorado Hospitality owner Bruce Rahmani of Denver, who is charged with remodeling and finding a company to run the restaurant and kitchen.
Event coordinator Tom Williams said they hope to have the motel rooms open by early July. It will probably be October before the restaurant and lounge are open for banquets and conventions, but they are already getting calls about events during the holiday season.
Watkins abruptly closed the restaurant, lounge and motel last August over a dispute with the company managing the facility, Om Shiv Ganesh, which was also managing the tower. The tower had gone into receivership in June when the owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against Om Shiv Ganesh for more than $3.4 million, claiming unpaid mortgage payments and taxes.
Westerra Realty & Management, a Salt Lake company, managed the property until Rahmani bought it Jan. 22. The tower reopened at the end to March. Situated in a prime location by the falls, Williams said the tower has been doing well. It was sold out completely the weekend of the Beer Fest and the following week, when a Little League tournament was held in Idaho Falls.
Known for years as the Westbank, the property dates back to 1928, when Ferris Clark, son of Mayor Barzilla W. Clark, built two log buildings by the Snake River to accommodate motorists on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Over 52 years, Clark expanded with a red brick motel, then a restaurant and lounge, then more motel rooms. He retired in 1980 and died in 1987 at age 79.
After Clark left, the property went by different names, including Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, it was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus, the children of Olga Gustafson Rigby. That year, however, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while Watkins bought the motel, restaurant, lounge and convention center.