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Grayl's Hotel, a historic Beach Drive jewel, to be auctioned

Grayl’s Hotel, Gatsby’s Restaurant and Packard’s Bar are still operating. The online auction is to take place Monday.

LARA CERRI | Times

Grayl’s Hotel, Gatsby’s Restaurant and Packard’s Bar are still operating. The online auction is to take place Monday.

St. PETERSBURG — A year after the owners of Grayl's Hotel filed for bankruptcy, the historic building on Beach Drive is now under the control of its bank. It will be sold in a public online auction Monday if the $2.1 million owed on the building isn't paid by then.

"We're actively marketing it. We have lots of interest," said David Feaster, president and chief executive of Cornerstone Community Bank, which holds the mortgage.

Dale and Mary Grayl bought the three-story Spanish-style building at 340 Beach Drive NE in 1994 for $725,000. They ran it profitably for several years, renting the large efficiency suites. As condo towers started going up downtown, they planned a renovation that would have added five stories to the building but scrapped the idea because of the high price tag. They also toyed with opening a private club that would have charged $3,000 for memberships.

They ended up enhancing it with Gatsby's Restaurant, Packard's Bar and a courtyard. With 1920s features such as claw-foot tubs and wall cupboards that were once used for storing ice blocks, they played up a theme of that era. The 19,000-square-foot building was built in 1922.

But by 2009 the unpaid bills were stacking up. About 25 creditors made claims against the business last year, including a Palm Harbor construction company.

"It's tough. They are a victim of the bad economy and a number of other circumstances. They spent an awful lot of money renovating that building at the wrong time," said the Grayls' lawyer, Timothy Papp. "The financing that at one point was cheap, then became very, very expensive."

As Beach Drive thrives with sold-out condominium towers and bustling restaurants, Grayl's, once the home of former Mayor Al Lang, may offer opportunity to a new owner. The restaurant, bar and hotel are still in operation, with rooms going for $140 to $209 a night. According to the Pinellas County property appraiser, the property's market value is $1.65 million.

Reach Katherine Snow Smith at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@sptimes.com.

Grayl's Hotel, a historic Beach Drive jewel, to be auctioned 04/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 3:29pm]
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