Biz Buzz: Owner of SLO’s Courtyard Marriott in default

A San Luis Obispo-based developer and hotelier could lose two Thousand Oaks hotels to foreclosure, according to court documents and information supplied by an Irvine-based real estate firm specializing in hotel properties.

Ocean Park Hotels Inc., which operates nine Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn Express and Best Western franchise properties in the state, including the Courtyard Marriott in San Luis Obispo, is in default on a $25 million construction loan originated in 2004.

The lender, Nationwide Life Insurance Co., filed a complaint in Ventura County Superior Court earlier this month, asking the court to place the Marriott TownePlace Suites and Courtyard by Marriott - Thousand Oaks into receivership.

Ocean Park Hotels Top LLC filed its opposition to the complaint ordering a receiver on April 23, according to the court’s website. A motion for the appointment of a receiver is set for May 6 in Ventura County Superior Court.

Terry Westrope, vice president of administration for Ocean Park Hotels, declined to comment Wednesday about the possibility of receivership for the hotels, referring calls to the president, James Flagg. Flagg could not be reached for comment.

The attorney representing Nationwide Life Insurance Co. was unavailable for comment.

Ocean Park Hotels, which has plans to build a Hampton Inn in San Luis Obispo (according to the company website) is one of several local hoteliers in distress in this tough economy.

A recent survey by Atlas Hospitality Group, a real estate firm specializing in hotel properties, shows that the number of hotels in default and foreclosure in California continued to increase in the first quarter of this year. A total of 406 have either defaulted or been foreclosed on, up from 101 in the same period a year ago.

In San Luis Obispo County, three hotels were taken back by the bank or lender and 10 were issued notices of default in the first quarter, according to the firm.

Among them is the Inn at Morro Bay, which was put into receivership last month. The San Luis Obispo County Superior Court appointed a receiver after the lender, Wells Fargo, requested that it grant a judicial foreclosure, which means the property could be sold to pay what is owed.

The Inn at Morro Bay LLC, formerly operated by hotelier John King, owed Wells Fargo about $8.8 million, and as of Jan. 30, it had failed to make payments totaling more than $65,000, according to court documents.

The historic Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, owned by King and Rob Rossi, another local developer, had been scheduled for public auction. But that has been put on hold until May 7 at the lender’s request.

In Atascadero, the Carlton Hotel is also in default and indebted to lender R.E. Loans. A report in The Tribune in February said the lender had not decided whether it would start foreclosing on the property owned by David Weyrich. The lender did not respond to requests for comment about the status of the loan.

Two other local properties — the Econo Lodge at 540 Main St. in Morro Bay and the Sea Air Inn, also in Morro Bay — have been issued notices of default, according to Atlas Hospitality Group.

— Julie Lynem

Runway Express opens in airport

An eatery and gift shop at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport celebrated with a ribbon-cutting and wine tasting event Wednesday night.

Runway Express, owned by Karen and Tim Twisselman, serves gourmet coffee drinks, fresh deli sandwiches, breakfast wraps, baked goods from Edna’s bakery and sells more than 15 different local wines. The wines — from Edna Valley and Paso Robles — can be packaged and packed into passengers’ luggage or shipped to a traveler’s destination, Twisselman said.

The shop, which opened Dec. 14, replacing Higher Groundz, also sells T-shirts, books, magazines and gift items from the Madonna Inn.

Runway Express has eight employees and is open from 4:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, year round.

The couple decided to open the snack and gift shop after Tim Twisselman, who has a love for airplanes, saw it come up for bid.

“We took a look at it and put our pencil to it,” said Karen Twisselman, who declined to disclose the terms of the deal. “That’s how it all came about.”

The Wednesday night event took place inside the terminal near Runway Express, with tasting at the Spirit of San Luis restaurant, which has long featured some of the area’s local wines.

— Julie Lynem