Motels agree to new regulations

The Metro Inn and Aqua City Motel will hire off-duty officers to work weekend nights as part of new license conditions.

The new regulations follow neighborhood complaints last year, which prompted city inspections and subsequent citations. Motel staff agreed to the license conditions and the City Council approved them on April 17.

As part of the licensing agreement, the motels will now hire off-duty police officers two nights each week, working at least four hours Friday and Saturday between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Staff must tow any vehicles not registered to hotel guests. They must clean litter on the premises at least four times daily. They will conduct criminal background checks on all employees. Staff cannot charge hourly rates, and must undergo training to recognize signs of sex trafficking and report them to police.

The motels will continue recording the IDs of all guests renting a room, giving Minneapolis police access to the information. The check-in system flags guests who previously caused problems on the property, and those guests will not be allowed to rent a room. Guests under age 18 will need written parental consent to rent a room.

“We want to do everything they wanted us to do,” said Metro Inn owner Shahid Mian. “We’ll probably be more careful. … We’ll make sure we do the right thing.”

Mian said it’s a challenge to anticipate which motel guests might become a problem.

“How can you figure that out from his face?” he said. If a guest is involved in an argument several hours after arrival, Mian said, “how is that my fault?”

“I make the best judgment I can make,” he said. “If things happen, we have a do-not-rent list. Even if he comes after five years down the road, we have the names. That’s all we can do. We’ll keep doing our best. Not everything should be blamed on the hotels.”

Other new license conditions state that long-term stays over a month will typically not be permitted. However, up to 12 units may be made available to tenants with “legitimate” needs like construction workers, people visiting loved ones in hospitals, or people with an emergency at their current residence.

Linda Roberts, assistant manager of business licenses, said she thinks the most significant license condition requires the owners to meet directly with the community. Motel staff must provide a way for community members to lodge complaints, keeping a log of the complaints and how they were resolved.

“This condition has the potential to proactively address issues and develop better relationships with the community,” Roberts said.

Mian encouraged residents to call him directly.

“They can call us 24/7 anytime they want to,” he said.

City inspections last fall yielded violation notices and citations for litter, inoperable vehicles, loitering and failure to comply with business license conditions. Hennepin County issued a “Notice of Public Nuisance” related to an August narcotics arrest at the Aqua City Motel.

Motel staff contested all of the citations. The citations were reduced to violation notices as part of the settlement, which requires a $500 sanction payment from each owner. A further $500 penalty is stayed for two years, provided there are no serious violations.

“Due to the history of poor maintenance, the principals of the Aqua City Motel understand that any further failure to promptly correct any Housing, Health, Fire and Safety violations may result in revocation or denial of the license,” states the city’s license settlement document.

Mian said he’s raised his children at the motel, and the owners have invested $300,000 to improve the property.

“I’m part of the neighborhood, it’s my house,” he said. “We are trying to run a good business.”