(This story was first published in the Jan. 16, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Michelle Fields, Standard Correspondent
WINDSOR — Despite a bank bailout of the tax sale, a feature on a television show and new management, the historic Juniper Hill Inn in Windsor is now closed.
“This is a big concern for our community. We would like to get something going again,” said Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh about the property. “There’s an awful lot of history there.”
Marsh noted that he has been trying to contact the bank to determine what possible next steps there could be in the life of the historic Inn.
“The bank has not been very cooperative for us so we can get some details,” he said.
While the back taxes were paid just prior to the tax sale last August, current taxes have not been paid on the property.
“If they go delinquent again in April we can go to another tax sale,” said Marsh.
The Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has faced a number of financial challenges and has tried to reinvent itself in several different ways to face them in the last few years.
Originally stuffed full of antiques and what former manager Jim Carleton called “New York City glam,” the Inn went through several reincarnations since it was featured on two back-to-back episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s “Hotel Hell” series in August 2012. Ramsay pointed out the clutter of antiques, financial mismanagement, and communication problems at the inn. Initially the owners, Robert Dean and Ari Nikki, restructured adding a new Blue Bar, removing some of the clutter and improving communications etc. They reported an increase in bookings and interest from the show.
However, the financial challenges remained and were intensified when the Inn was forced to close in February 2013 due to problems resulting from frozen pipes. Then their bank, U.S. Bank, filed foreclosure papers in March citing they were owed more than $1.1 million according to an April 4, 2013 Rutland Herald article.
The Inn reopened Memorial Day weekend but their next challenge was the tax sale of the property on August 9, 2013 for $111,000 owed in back taxes. “The bank stepped in within 30 minutes of the sale,” said Marsh. “The bank paid the taxes to preserve their position on the property.”
In the interim, the Inn tried to reinvent itself again eliminating the bar and restaurant and declaring itself a country inn.
“We’re taking a new direction. The economy has forced this but we should have been a country inn from the beginning,” said Carleton last August noting that guests staying in the inn’s 10 rooms continued to receive a full made-to-order breakfast and could choose to have dinner at the inn where the focus was on local food but they had to bring their own alcohol.
A phone call to the Inn now gets a cheery message with no indication of a closure, but the website simply reads, “We regret to inform you the Juniper Hill Inn is no longer in business.”
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