Hotel renovations begin

The patio next to the Old Hotel building and The Hotel Tavern restaurant was removed Monday, March 2, the stated first step in owner Mark Beck’s renovation plans.

WEST JEFFERSON — Still waiting for a decision on a preliminary injunction, the lawsuit between Old Hotel owner Mark Beck and The Hotel Tavern restaurant received new paperwork Thursday, March 5, in the form of a temporary restraining order.

An emergency motion for the order was filed in response to Beck beginning renovations on the building, the start of his plans to transform it into a functioning hotel. This included closing off the second floor and removing the patio.

Beck sent a notice to the owners of The Hotel Tavern Feb. 7, letting them know of his intentions to begin work in the spring. Part of the notice was a request for the Tavern to remove all belongings from the second floor, however when construction began and power to the second floor was still shut off, the Tavern’s computer systems were still there, forcing them to shut down temporarily.

The order, signed by the Hon. Michael D. Duncan of the Superior Court, prevents Beck from doing anything that could adversely affect the Tavern’s ability to operate. It also requires Beck to provide a handicap-accessible ramp, which was only on the patio, and not impede “Clear, clean and safe passage by restaurant patrons.”

The order explicitly said the Court would not address the matter of the patio. Beck said the patio was built more than 30 years ago, and was not in good shape.

“The patio was removed to make room for construction equipment and staging as we are starting the renovation. I have no other place to stage materials or equipment needed as the alleyway is being used for deliveries and outdoor food storage. Both the alleyway and patio are common areas—not part of the restaurant’s disputed lease,” Beck said. He added he did not believe common areas around the Tavern were part of the status quo agreement. “We never agreed that the status quo agreement prevented the building owner from making necessary building repairs.”

When the patio was removed Monday, March 2, Tavern co-owner Andy Guion said he had no comment on the matter. The restaurant re-opened Wednesday, March 4.

The order is effective and in full force for 10 days or until the Court rules on the preliminary injunction. Tavern co-owner Sherman Lyall said the restaurant will continue to operate as normal, and the only issues were when they felt Beck got in the way of that.

Originally scheduled to be released Dec. 23, 2019, Duncan has not issued a ruling on a preliminary injunction that would protect the Tavern during the lawsuit.

The Old Hotel was sold by the Woodie family to Bridgetree Investments Aug. 1 for $800,000. Bridgetree owner Mark Beck said he plans to transform the building back into a historic, functioning hotel, which will take roughly two-and-a-half years of renovations.

The sale led to a complaint from the owners of The Hotel Tavern, Guion & Lyle Enterprises, on Aug. 29, alleging that Bridgetree Investments, and the Old Hotel’s former owners, conducted unfair and deceptive trade practices and breached their contract, among other claims, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

The complaint led to countersuits from both Bridgetree and the Woodie family. In their Oct. 29 countersuit, the Woodies denied the existence of The Hotel Tavern’s 2018 lease, while also accusing them of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, conversion, trespass and abuse of process. Bridgtree made accusations against Guion & Lyle Enterprises of breach of contract, civil conspiracy, trespass, damage to property, unjust enrichment, abuse of process, libel, slander, permissive waste and fraud, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

The lawsuit’s first day in Ashe County Superior Court was Dec. 18, 2019, and the case has not returned while Duncan has not ruled on the preliminary injunction.

(4) comments

Here's my entire statement to the reporter Ian Taylor who requested comments from me.

From: Mark Beck

Sent: Friday, March 6, 2020 3:39 PM


Subject: RE: Hotel patio and suit

Dear Ian:

I know this might be hard to believe, but not everything you read on facebook is unbiased and correct.

At 100 years old and after decades of deferred maintenance the Old Hotel is in terrible shape needing substantial repairs to bring it back to a safe condition. All one has to do it take a good look at the building and you can see it needs some serious renovation.

The Hotel Tavern Restaurant was provided a written notice that we were going to start renovation work on the building well before the work was started—I’ve attached a copy of the notice below.

There is only one entrance to the 2nd floor—and it is not possible to repair the building without using that entrance.

The patio was removed to make room for construction equipment and staging as we are starting the renovation. I have no other place to stage materials or equipment needed as the alleyway is being used for deliveries and outdoor food storage. Both the alleyway and patio are common areas—not part of the restaurant’s disputed lease.

Obviously, I believe that areas of the building that are not part of the disputed lease (such as common areas and other tenant spaces) are not bound by the status quo agreement, whereas the Hotel Tavern’s view is apparently more expansive. We never agreed that the status quo agreement prevented the building owner from making necessary building repairs.

We contacted he county and city a few weeks prior to beginning the demolition phase of the renovation and both said that no permits were needed. Additionally, the patio was built by Bill Woodie nearly thirty years ago and it wasn’t in very good shape.

It is unfortunate and harmful that the Hotel Tavern owners continue to spread false and slanderous comments about me and my plans. There are two sides of the story.

As a private citizen, I don’t have the media resources to broadcast my side of the story like what is being employed by the Hotel Tavern Restaurant through their widely distributed facebook posts and through their powerful leadership position on the Chamber of Commerce. Even if I did have the media resources I wouldn’t do this as it is not prudent to comment on legal matters that are destined to heard, eventually, in courts of law.

Again, this is unfortunate.

Here’s the notice I provided—

From: Mark Beck

Sent: Friday, February 7, 2020 2:46 PM

To: Beth Lyle

Subject: Repair Notice

Repair Notice:

Dear Hotel Tavern Restaurant:

This is a notice to alert you that we are planning to begin making necessary repairs to the upper floor of the building. The building’s main entrance, which is the only entrance to the second floor, will be used for construction equipment, materials and contractor transit during this work.

In order to do these repairs, the building’s main, 2nd floor entrance will not be available as an entrance to your tenant space. During construction, you will need to use the entrances associated with your tenant area—which are the two West Main Street entrances to the spaces you occupy.

For safety reasons we will restrict the use of the main 2nd floor entrance to construction workers and life safety only. Additionally, demolition materials will be piped-off the 2nd floor into a construction dumpster located below the upstairs porch. We do not want to risk injury by having pedestrians in the construction area, so we are going to restrict access to the area with a construction barrier.

We plan to start work in spring so are giving you notice to please make arrangements for this within the next 30 days.

You will also need to remove all of your remaining items from the second floor as we will not be liable for any damage to these items during construction. Please contact either Mark Beck or Greg Testerman to make arrangements for their removal.

Thank you for your understanding as we begin work to do necessary repairs to the building.

Mark Beck

The "turning off the electricity" is another point of this story that has missing elements. No blame to the reporter, but this claim needs some context.

For some reason, after the 2nd floor tenants were relocated and all the power devices and equipment was turned off, I continued to get large electric power bills. In an abundance of caution, I contacted the Hotel Tavern about this power usage to inquire whether they were using this power. Please see the email below. I had the electrician very carefully turn off meters 98024186 and 98024185 which Mr. Lyle indicated the restaurant was not using. When this happened, the restaurant went down. Instead of contacting me to correct this, the restaurant called in an electrician and Skybest to rewire the place--all without my approval. As a building owner, it is not a good practice to allow properties to be rewired without your knowledge or approval. It's also not a good practice to do this without the approval of the county building inspector.

Sent: Tuesday, February 11, 2020 10:56 AM

To: Beth Lyle

Subject: Electricity within the Building

Electric Utility Notice

Dear Hotel Tavern Restaurant Tenant:

As you know, all the other tenant spaces within the building have been vacated for safety reasons.

When the building became unoccupied, we carefully checked to insure that all electric power devices were removed or turned off.

Despite this effort, for some reason, power usage continues in these vacated areas; please see the attached recent Blue Ridge Electric invoices for details.

Can you tell me if the Hotel Tavern Restaurant is using electricity from any of these meters? (98024186 and 98024185)

As part of the repairs we are getting ready to do, we’re planning to consolidate the electrical service which means these meters may be turned off. If you are running anything on these meters, please tell me within the next few days so that your service is not interrupted.

Thank you

Mark Beck

(704) 650-0962

This correspondence and any files transmitted are confidential and/or legally privileged information. The information is intended solely for the use of the individual

From: Beth Lyle

Sent: Thursday, February 13, 2020 6:50 PM

To: Mark Beck

Cc: Paul Capua ; John Lisk ; Jay Vannoy ; Lee Bentley ;

Subject: Re: Electricity within the Building

Electricity is supplied to The Hotel Tavern office space, Room 6/8. Room 6/8 is on one meter. See attached photo of meter. Electricity must remain on in this area as it houses our desktop computer, whichis accessed remotely, as well as our Point of Sale equipment and internet equipment. The meter number is #47761569. That actual meter number was not available to us until this afternoon when GregTesterman gave us access to the electrical room on the second floor.

The way I have been treated by this community is shameful. I have owned property here for twenty years so it's not as if I just showed up last Tuesday. The Old Hotel needs some restoration. Years of deferred maintenance. Landmark place. So I stepped in to do the job. And what do I get? A slander and defamation campaign by the county's tax-funded Chamber of Commerce leadership. That building is a landmark at a state level, maybe even a National Level from a preservationist's point of view. It ties right back to the train running through the area and it's connection to getting out of town to the low country. It is the foundation property of the town. Should I just listen to the cheerleaders (including the tax-funded Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board) and just shut down the project by securing the place with plywood over the windows and wait for the community to come to its senses which may take years? Or should I just tear it down like some of the social media posts are saying I will do? This is not what an philanthropist with a mission to restore landmark buildings in communities (which, by the way, takes millions as it is more expensive to restore something than to just tear it down and put in some cheap stuff which will work okay because the location is very good). The business community should be shamed by how I have been treated. The community is signalling to me what I should do. And it ain't looking so hot for the Old Hotel. I don't particularly enjoy my home address and personal details being floated around by people in the county encouraging crazy nuts to show up and wish me birthday greetings. I have plenty of security so I will be safe. Non the less, the online and private messaging threats coming to me are not are not what anyone would describe term "welcoming". Ashe County should be ashamed by this. Your (and mine) tax-funded chamber working to bring jobs and investment to the county.

Mark, our family is new to living here, having visited for some fifty years.

We remember the town the way it used to be.

It was great then and it is great now.

Please do not be discouraged. We look forward to seeing what you can accomplish with the Old Hotel.

Thank you for restoring this historic building.

The Cleary Family

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