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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hoteliers protest higher highway sign fees



Nearly 100 people representing small hotels gathered in the Capitol Monday to blast the Department of Transportation for more than tripling the fees for those familiar blue signs directing travelers to hotels on exit ramps of state highways. Most of the protesters are members of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which claims to have 10,000 members.

The group's treasurer, Hemant Patel of Miami, said the sign fees have skyrocketed in some cases from $1,000 to $3,200, creating a burden for small business owners during a recession. Hoteliers held signs reading "Small business on life support" and "DOT: Stop price gouging."

The hoteliers drew support from Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, a candidate for attorney general, and members of the state unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. SCLC members drew a link between the sign-fee protest and the annual observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The SCLC's Art Rocker threatened to hold a sit-in in the Capitol until Gov. Charlie Crist meets with the group. "We're going to stay here until the governor comes," Rocker told a small group of hoteliers before a news conference began. "But I don't think he has the guts to do it." 

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:15pm]


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