JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Time’s up for guests of a troubled Jacksonville motel.
Monday was the deadline for those staying at the Gold Rush Inn on Harts Road to move out. Everyone was asked to leave by 6 p.m.
The deadline follows an emergency order issued last week by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which closed the motel in the wake of a wave of violent crime.
There is still a chance the motel could reopen, but that’s only if the operator takes steps to address safety concerns detailed by authorities, including a lack of adequate lighting in the parking lot.
Currently, there’s no indication about when that might happen.
Some guests told News4Jax they’re getting help from the city in the form of $1,200 vouchers to defray the cost of moving. But even with those vouchers, guests aren’t happy about the move.
In closing the motel, the state cited several health and safety issues. According to the state order, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has received nearly 200 calls for service to the motel in the last three months alone. That includes a Dec. 13 shooting that wounded one man and a June 23 shooting that left two men dead. “Anything short of closure would be an insufficient safeguard,” the order said.
It’s been a rough week for tenants like Skyler Avry, who believe they’re being wrongfully punished.
“I think the state did (it) the wrong way,” Avry said. “There are a lot of bad people in the area in general. I don’t think the hotel being closed is the right thing. A lot of people depend on this. I’ve got a family I’m trying to feed and I’m out here trying to make an honest living.”
Jay Johnson, who’s been staying at the motel with his wife, said the couple is just trying to get back on their feet.
“I go to work every day so we deserve the peace of mind to say at least it’s bad out here but we at least have someone from the city to look out for us out here,” Johnson said. “But we didn’t have that.”
Johnson, an Army veteran, has dreams of a better life, but the pandemic and the economy have not helped his situation.
“A lot of us working for $8.75, worked for $9.75 maybe 10 dollars (an hour),” he said. “It’s just not enough, but honestly in this area from that hotel across the street to the Red Roof, it’s the most affordable one.”
The average rate at the Gold Rush Inn is about $20-$30 a day.
Since Nov. 22, Councilman Reggie Gaffney has been fighting to get the inn closed. The owner, Reinvestment Capital Group 18, wants to fix violations and reopen.
According to the city’s fire marshal, the motel’s management is helping some of the guests relocate to other properties owned by the motel’s operator.
As part of the shutdown, the motel isn’t allowed to book any new guests until the health and public safety issues have been adequately addressed. A Dec. 11 inspection by the state found a wide range of issues, from holes in walls to mold and cockroaches.
Attempts by News4Jax to reach the motel’s management have so far been unsuccessful.