The Birmingham City Council has revoked the business license of a crime-ridden Crestwood Boulevard motel. The USA Economy Lodge had been given eight weeks to fix its numerous issues — including drug trafficking, prostitution and damage to neighboring properties — which had led to 151 calls to police between Feb. 2 and Aug. 8.
Representatives for the motel’s owners told councilors Tuesday that steps had been taken to reduce crime at the location, including the removal of long-term guests who had exceeded the motel’s official 30-day stay limit, which previously had not been enforced. Owners also said that they were pursuing plans to redevelop the property into “studio-type, multi-family affordable housing” and to sell the property to other buyers.
Owners also had stopped accepting cash payments, improved lighting and surveillance around the property and mandated human trafficking awareness training for staff. On-site security from retired sheriff’s deputies, meanwhile, had been slated to begin Nov. 29.
But councilors remained unconvinced, citing the additional 20 emergency calls to the property that had been received since the initial Sept. 21 hearing. Several residents of the nearby Eastwood community also called for the motel’s business license to be revoked, citing incidents of burglary and trespassing by guests.
“Quite frankly, this has been something that has terrorized the community around it,” said District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams. “It’s terrorized my office with phone calls and complaints about what’s going on. … Overwhelmingly, the neighborhood and adjacent residents are all succinct in the fact that they feel like this is not fair for them to have to live next to … . I think this is a public safety hazard, and I think we are well within our rights as a council to revoke this business license.”
Williams’ argument received unanimous support from the council, including the three new councilors who had not been present at the Sept. 21 hearing.
“We have an obligation and a duty to protect the public,” said new District 9 Councilor LaTonya Tate, who took over from Williams as chair of the council’s public safety committee last month. “(For the owner,) where has the accountability come in at? … You have a problem that you should have been addressing long before now.”
The council voted unanimously to revoke the USA Economy Lodge’s license. Some councilors, however, argued that the business was only part of a larger problem in the city.
District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn argued that other motels have caused similar problems in other Birmingham neighborhoods, including several in his district. “We’re not done here,” he said. “There are businesses like this all over the city of Birmingham that are plaguing our neighborhoods. Let’s take action, but let’s not stop here.”
Last month, the council voted to revoke the business license of Club Euphoria, a violence-prone Ensley nightclub deemed a nuisance by neighbors.