Hampton Inn opening delayed by bugs
The owner of the Hampton Inn on Palatka’s riverfront said the hotel is completed and all his staff must do is make the beds. But there’s one hangup.
The nighttime critters, which are heavily prevalent on the St. Johns River this time of year, have forced the Hilton Hotels and Resorts chain to postpone the opening of the hotel.
“Hilton won’t let me open the hotel,” said SHP Hospitality owner Sanjay Patel, who owns the hotel. “I’m waiting on all the blind mosquitoes.”
Blind mosquitoes have long been a bugaboo on the river. Documents from as far back as the Civil War reference the bugs, which are aquatic midges that are somewhat mosquito-like in appearance, according to scientific records.
The blind mosquitoes don’t bite, suck blood or carry diseases, according to records, but they are a nuisance. They appear in huge swarms and are often attracted to lights and light-colored buildings – two things the Hampton Inn hotel boast.
Patel said he was aware of blind mosquitoes, but said he didn’t think they’d be so prevalent.
“The city told me it’s not that much of a headache,” Patel said. “I’ve never seen that much mosquitoes in my life.”
Patel said he’s asked city and county officials to spray the river to rid it of mosquitoes, but he said city officials said they don’t have money in the budget for the treatments. Patel said similar problems in Ponte Vedra were handled through chemical treatments.
“They don’t have many of them (in Ponte Vedra),” Patel said. “They treat it.
“I’d like to open up earlier. I do have a lot of reservations. I have to guide customers to other hotels.”
SHP Hospitality purchased the property for $160,000 in 2013. Previously, the site was home to the Frank George Apartments, a public housing apartment building.
The city of Palatka purchased the property for $3.2 million in 2008.
SHP Hospitality broke ground in September 2014. The plan was to complete the hotel by the end of 2015. That target dated moved several times, including a potential opening in July.
Patel said he’s unsure when he’ll be able to open.