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The sanitation score (a 94) was posted on a shelf behind the check-in desk. Bottles of champagne, wine glasses, a TV connected to a security system, fake flowers, angel figurines, and a sign depicting two hand guns, reading, "These premises are monitored by Smith & Wesson," also adorned the shelf. No one was at the front desk.
While Anthony used a telephone mounted on the door to ring someone to check us in, I returned to the car and waited for at least 15 minutes. As I waited, I stared at a window on the wall that we were parked by, wondering if anyone was looking back at me. I contemplated the emptiness of the parking lot and what kind of alarms might have went off in my head if I were in my right mind. And for a brief moment, I thought about the man away on a business trip ... a man I was betraying.
After what seemed like an eternity, Anthony finally returned, excited that he was able to get a room for $65. "And he threw in porn channels for free, too," he said.
The front desk clerk came out of the lobby and gestured for us to follow him. We walked up the stairs to the second floor and entered a room whose number I couldn't make out in the dark.
As I walked over the threshold, I immediately noticed how stale and warm the air was inside. It was as if the door had been bolted shut since the building had been erected. Anthony went straight to the air/heating unit against the window and turned it on to try and cool the room.
The room was like any other motel room I'd seen before, except for a few things. First, rose petals were scattered across the king-sized bed. I picked up a petal, only to find that it was fake -- a soft, faded-red, papery decoration that I probably wouldn't really notice against my back anyway, considering the state I was in. It was a nice touch, even if the fakeness did kind of ruin the effect.
"Ooh, look! There's a mirror," I exclaimed. Directly above the bed -- for, I assume, no other reason than to add to the flavor of a sin-filled night -- was a mirror. And not one of those narrow mirrors you put on the back of the bathroom door so that you can quickly make sure your outfit is right before leaving the house; no, this was definitely bigger than that. The reflection from up above revealed the entire king-sized bed and some of the floor as well.
In the bathroom, a small, square-shaped Jacuzzi waited for two people to take a leisurely bath together. Of course, it was also accented with another mirror.
"Wow. High-class shit," Anthony said, an amused look on his face.
When asked about the type of people who generally check into the Ascot, Gandhi says, "You can't expect high-class here."
Against the backdrop of the ever-growing Charlotte skyline, the place has seen little in the way of modern upgrades over the years. And the fact that the Ascot is located conveniently next door to Uptown Cabaret, the center city's only strip club, leaves it open to developing a less-than-attractive reputation. Although Gandhi has only been manager for five of the 23 years that the property has been the Ascot, he knows what local people think of the place.
"There's a very thin line between thinking positive and thinking negative," he says. "Because people think we are in downtown and there's a strip club next door, it means we have a connection with them. We have nothing to do with them."
But back in 2004, according to articles published in the Charlotte Business Journal, the property was supposed to be taken over by Brian Dominick and his partner Tom Wicker, owners of Uptown Cabaret. A June 4, 2004 article stated that the "Ascot Inn property on South Tryon Street -- one of the best located but most underutilized tracts in Charlotte -- is for sale and may be targeted for residential condominiums." Two months later, another article in the Journal stated that "the owners of the Uptown Cabaret have closed on the adjoining Ascot Inn property and, within 90 days, will snap up the final parcel, giving them control of the entire block at Morehead Street and South and Carson boulevards." The price tag for the property was $3.14 million.
But, a search on Realist, a program that provides property tax records to Charlotte Multiple Listing Service subscribers, reveals that the property located at 1025 S. Tryon St. is owned by Oscar Investors Management Corporation, helmed by Ashok Patel.