Hotel re-opens under new ownership

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

All the talk around town last week was about the former Northwest Inn/Travelodge. Was it re-opening? When? Just rooms or restaurant too? How about the lounge and banquet room?
Answer: the whole works, but not all at once.
“We’re opening in one end,” says general manager Emily Broad. “Once that’s complete we’ll open the other end. It should be in about a week.”
That will add 99 rooms to what’s available in Slave Lake, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Hotels in town have been turning customers away lately (see story on Page 3).
When The Leader visited the Hotel Northern Star last Thursday it was a beehive of activity, with a housekeeping staff of nine going all out in the north wing (60 rooms), prepping them for use. Piles of junk destined for the landfill (or maybe recycling) were in the lobby. Electricians were up ladders, their upper bodies hidden inside the ceilings as they worked to get the control systems going. And several women were at the front desk, figuring things out.
“First come the rooms,” says Srini Jayaraman, speaking for the ownership group. “Then the lounge, then the restaurant, then the banquet room and meeting room. Maybe a month,” to get all those parts reopened.
Jayaraman, a prominent figure in town the past few years due to his senior position in the Sawridge Group and membership in the Rotary Club – is one of several owners, both local and from out of town. Two of the other local investors are businessmen Bobby Minhas and Ranjit Sandhu, of East Side convenience store and the Slave Lake Bottle Depot, respectively. Minhas says he had already owned the Northwest Inn, for a couple of good years before the 2008 economic crash, before selling it to the Holloway Group. That was the outfit that re-branded it as the Travelodge, and from whom the partners have acquired it on a ‘lease-to-own’ plan.
Jayaraman says the partners started looking at the place back in the summer and talking about the possibilities. Things picked up steam late in the year and started moving very quickly only a few weeks ago.
“The takeover was officially on Tuesday,” he says.
By Thursday they were already staffed up to around 18 people.
Broad, who managed another hotel in town for 10 years, says she was all set to move to the city when Jayaraman made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
“These opportunities don’t come every day,” she says, adding, “People are really excited to see it open.”
Jayaraman admits it’s a daunting project, but is obviously committed to it.
“It’s a huge property,” he says. “You need to make sure you have enough business. I told Emily you need to rent 10 rooms just to pay for the lights!”
As for the restaurant, Jayaraman says if anyone is interested in leasing the space, get in touch. Hiring somebody to run it is another possibility.

Off and running

If all goes well, Hotel Northern Star will open this week in Slave Lake. Pictured at the front desk of the former Travelodge/Northwest Inn are three members of the ownership group and the general manager. Left to right are Ranjit Sandhu, Srini Jayaraman, GM Emily Broad and Bobby Minhas.

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