Ponderosa Hotel Residents Fear Rents Could be Doubled if Wild Or - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Ponderosa Hotel Residents Fear Rents Could be Doubled if Wild Orchid Forced to Relocate, Loses Liquor License

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The ongoing battle between adult businesses and the City of Reno continues as residents at the Ponderosa Hotel fear they will face life on the streets if the Wild Orchid is forced to relocate.

The reason for this concern is because the owners of the hotel also own the Wild Orchid. The owners, the Keshmiri family, allow residents to rent rooms at prices well below the market average. 

If the strip club's liquor license is revoked or they have to relocate, Kamy Keshmiri says they will have to double rent on the mostly low and fixed-income residents. This comes after Reno's city council passed a city ordinance last year, 5-2, in favor of moving certain adult businesses out of their current locations, into places specifically zoned in industrial areas.

Velma Shoals has been living at the hotel for five years. Originally from California, Shoals was homeless and moved to Reno with her granddaughter, where they hoped to find more affordable housing. When they came across the Ponderosa, they moved in immediately and have been living there since. She says, "It was almost like an answer to our prayer and unless you've been homeless, you would not know that."

Shoals, along with the more than 100 other long-term residents at the hotel received a letter from Keshmiri stating that residents could see their rents doubled, if the new city ordinance is enforced, as is. She says, "I was in shock because I can't afford it." 

In the letter, Keshmiri explains that the Wild Orchid gives a $20,000-30,000 subsidy per month to the hotel. Keshmiri says, "The Wild Orchid basically keeps the rents of the Ponderosa 50% below market value."

Keshmiri adds that the Ponderosa has already been operating at a loss for years, but this would push costs over the edge, "A lot of the rates around here are $1,300-1,500 a month."

Dozens of those residents pleaded with city council Wednesday to 'leave the business alone' after receiving the letters. Virginia Russett, who has been living at Ponderosa, off and on, for 14 years says, "We don't have no problem here and we really needed this place to live."

Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon and Mayor Hillary Schieve were the two council members who voted against the adult business relocation ordinance last year. Jardon says the city is open to 'positive and productive conversations' with the adult business industry to possibly reach a mutual agreement.

However, she explains that she is disappointed with Keshmiri using the residents as what she calls 'political pawns,' "This very unfortunate and saddening tactic that they took that just terrified the residents is really counterproductive to that process."

But Keshmiri says this letter is not a 'threat,' and that he sent it out to residents in the name of transparency. He says he wants them to know the future they possibly face, to give them time to prepare to move elsewhere or otherwise plan accordingly. 

With nothing officially yet set in stone, Jardon says that mutual agreement could still be reached. The Planning Commission will again give recommendations on the adult business ordinance to the city council this spring.

Jardon adds, "I think in there, there will be some discussions about is there an opportunity with some improvements, security, you know, property improvements, that they do stay where they are."

The full letter sent to Ponderosa Hotel residents is included here. 

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