Airlines Hotel Finds Support - The New Indian Express

Airlines Hotel Finds Support

Published: 26th March 2014 08:22 AM

Last Updated: 26th March 2014 08:22 AM

Within days of launching a Facebook campaign, Airlines Hotel, which is located on Lavelle Road, has gotten over 4,000 likes from Bangaloreans. Bangalore’s first drive-in has been closed since Sunday after the High Court issued a stay order while hearing a case filed by hotelier Diwakar Rao against BBMP’s decision to cancel the hotel’s licence.

“On Sunday, we had over a thousand people visiting the hotel, but we had to send them back after explaining the issue,” Rao told Express.

Three days after it was closed, people continued to visit the hotel and return disappointed after seeing the board informing people of the closure. Many even noted down the email ID provided to muster support for a petition to ‘save’ the hotel.

Rao comes to the hotel every morning and every evening. He looks through accounts as he attends numerous phone calls asking him about the hotel’s status.

“This is what I have been doing for the last 30 years. I have no other business and I do not know what I am going to do if the hotel is shut down permanently,” he said. He has been looking after the hotel ever since his father passed away in 1995.

Employees at the hotel too are worried. “We have over 100 employees and many of them live here, this is their life. They have been here for over 20 years,” Rao said.

The hotel now bears a deserted look, despite the fact that many of the younger employees are out playing cricket in the courtyard. Employees, management and patron are however hopeful that the hotel will be reopened in a few days.

Rao’s father S N S Rao started Airlines Hotel over 45 years ago. “It was the city’s first drive-in hotel and, if shut down, it will probably be the last,” Rao said.

The first one in the state was Sujatha Hotel in Mysore also started by S N S Rao.

Airlines Hotel, which is famous for its piping hot coffees, masala dosas and channa baturas, remains one of the few places in the city where one can spend hours catching up with friends and family over a cup of coffee.

“My father designed a tray that can be attached to vehicles and on which food can be served. Earlier, we had a different drive-in and drive-out when the entire hotel was spread across 80,000 sqft. But when the lease was renewed in 1995, 30,000 sqft was given away to build a commercial complex,” Rao said.

The Issue

Airlines Hotel is located on a land owned by Haji Ibrahim Wakf Trust. It was first leased to Kalarickal Thomas, who then gave the land to SNS Rao to run a hotel. In 1995, the lease was renewed for 40,000 sqft of land, while on the remaining land, a commercial complex was built. The renewed lease was for a period of 60 years.

A few months after the lease was renewed, S N S Rao passed away and his son Diwakar Rao took over the management. In 2011, Thomas passed away as well. The trade licence for the hotel, which was in Thomas’ name was passed to his son Kurien Thomas.

In February 2012, Kurien wrote to BBMP stating that he was not interested in running the hotel and that the trade licence be cancelled.

Rao heard of this only when the BBMP sent him a legal notice in March 2012. Rao then asked for the trade licence to be provided in his name, but BBMP refused to, saying it couldn’t be done without the owner’s consent.

After two years of appeals to various BBMP committees, on March 5 this year, BBMP issued a notice saying the hotel was being run illegally and if it wasn’t shut down voluntarily, it would be forcefully shut down. Rao then filed a case in the High Court, which issued a stay order.

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