City successfully makes case to close problem motel
January 2022 - A significant number of police calls and a failure to follow the requirements of Lakewood’s lodging facility licensing program prompted a hearing officer to revoke Blue Sky Motel’s license this fall, making it the first motel to be shut down under the program.
The owner of the 24-room motel on West Colfax Avenue admitted to the hearing officer that he hadn’t followed the program’s requirements even after he was put on probation earlier this year and ordered to institute several measures to reduce problems at the motel.
“This case shows how the city’s lodging facility licensing program can address crime and other problems at lodging facilities in Lakewood,” said Assistant City Attorney Gus Schenck, who has reviewed thousands of calls for police service, communicated with hotel and motel owners and reviewed whether they are complying with the law as part of the licensing program. This was the first time he has asked that a lodging facility’s license be revoked.
Blue Sky had more than three times the number of police calls than is allowed under the licensing program. In fact, Lakewood Police were responding almost daily to the motel. The licensing program allows a facility to have up to 1.89 police calls per room in a year, but Blue Sky had 6.42 calls per room in a 12-month period.
Community members had regularly complained to the city about crime at the motel, which had been the site of two murders since 2019. Blue Sky also had several building code violations such as missing smoke detectors and similar items, making the rooms unsafe.
Two years ago, City Council approved the adoption of Lakewood’s lodging facility licensing program to address the high number of calls involving crime at facilities throughout the city. In one year, Lakewood Police handled nearly 3,000 calls to the city’s 44 hotels and motels.
Modeled after similar programs in other cities, the licensing program allows a lodging facility to be placed on probation to prompt it to make safety changes, which is the first step the hearing officer took with Blue Sky in February when Schenck presented evidence about what was occurring at the motel.
As part of probation, the hearing officer ordered Blue Sky to hire a security company to be on the premises during the weekends and to stop renting to customers who had previously caused disturbances requiring the police to respond.
Under the licensing program, the city can also ask a hearing officer to suspend, revoke or not renew a facility’s license. Based on Lakewood Police reports of what was happening at Blue Sky, Schenck asked for the hearing officer to take the next step of revoking the license. During a September hearing to revoke his license, Blue Sky’s owner admitted he had not hired a security firm or taken the other required steps to make the motel safer.
While Blue Sky closed as a result of the license revocation, the goal of the program is to make hotels and motels as safe as possible for guests, visitors and first responders. The focus also is on fostering best business practices and developing a beneficial relationship between police and the businesses.