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Grayl's hotel owners settle two suits over loans

The accountant for Dale Grayl, of Grayl’s Historic Hotel, said: “Like a lot of other different businesspeople, he’s struggling.”

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

The accountant for Dale Grayl, of Grayl’s Historic Hotel, said: “Like a lot of other different businesspeople, he’s struggling.”

ST. PETERSBURG — The owners of Grayl's Historic Hotel recently settled two lawsuits that sought to collect unpaid loans related to a recent expansion, court records show.

In the latest settlement, Dale and Mary Grayl, owners of the business at 340 Beach Drive, settled with Nebraska-based Axis Capital last month, agreeing to pay $110,000 over four years, records show.

The loan was related to upgrades for the elevator and security system, as well as for restaurant equipment, according to the court papers, which say the Grayls stopped making payments on that loan in February.

In September, the owners agreed to pay another creditor, Leaf Funding, $55,000 after they defaulted on a 2007 loan, records show.

The Grayls declined to comment for this article, but their accountant said the business is hanging on during tough times.

"This season, his sales are improving, but it took a lot to get there," said Marc Mancino. "Right now, he's okay. He's exploring what his options are.

"Like a lot of other different businesspeople, he's struggling."

In 1994, the Grayls bought and renamed the Lantern Lane Hotel, which is housed in a 1922 Spanish Mission-style building. The property was assessed at $1.8 million last year, more than double what they paid for it, county records show.

Last year, the owners announced plans for a significant expansion and remodeling. They planned to open the Prohibition Club, a membership-driven venue with a 1920s theme. They planned to bring the building from three stories to nine.

This summer, the Grayls told the St. Petersburg Times that the down economy slowed down their plans, as bids for the expansion soared to $10 million. So to supplement the income from 20 existing hotel rooms, they'd spend more money to open Gatsby's Restaurant.

John T. Long, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said he was unfamiliar with the Grayls' situation. But he said that with slumping sales and lending troubles common these days, many downtown businesses are continuing to invest and refine their approach until the economy improves. Those are likely the ones who will succeed, he added.

"I think what's really impressive is the attitude of our businesses," said Long. "There is a continuing belief that they will be successful, and they are doing that."

Luis Perez can be reached at lperez@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2271.

Grayl's hotel owners settle two suits over loans 11/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 14, 2009 3:30am]

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