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May 31, 2018

South Portland motel closures go before judge Friday

A judge will listen to arguments Friday on whether South Portland can shut down two motels on U.S. Route 1 because of complaints of illegal activity by customers or others on the premises.

Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren blocked closure of Knight's Inn and Maine Motel until he could hear preliminary facts on the case, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The City Council voted May 15 to not renew operating licenses for Knights Inn, 634 Main St., owned by Kantilal Patel, and Maine Motel, 606 Main St., owned by Ibrahim Dhamdachhawala.

The owners sued last week, claiming the council's action and the city ordinance on which it is based are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The council in its action cited a city ordinance that allows a lodging license to be denied, suspended or revoked for repeated calls to the police for breaches of peace, disorderly conduct and other illegal activity by anyone on the premises.

Councilors said there have been complaints by neighbors and also cited recent illegal activity at the motels, including complaints of prostitution, including an arrest, at Knight's Inn, and a SWAT team drug raid and three overdoses, one fatal, at Maine Motel.

Police Chief Ed Googins had asked the motels to install video surveillance in public areas and for staff to undergo police training to identify and report potential criminal activity. Both Googins and attorney David Lourie, representing the owners, said they agreed to the conditions, according to the Press Herald.

Lourie has asked the court to overturn the council's action, asking the owners not be held responsible for events appearing in police incident reports that they had no knowledge of, could not control and were unproven.

The hearing Friday is at 11 a.m.

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