Siena Hotel-Casino License in Peril for Tax Debt

The Siena Hotel Spa Casino in downtown Reno is months beind in its room tax payments and that's put its license to operate in jeopardy.

The Finance Committee of the Reno Sparks Converntion and Visitors Authority will hold a Tuesday morning "show cause" hearing which potentially could end in a suspension of the Siena's license. That action could lead to a loss of its city business license.

Launched in the summer of 2001 with considerable fanfare, the Siena was positioned to bring something new and different to downtown Reno. An upscale, smaller boutique hotel located on the downtown's greatest natural asset, the Truckee River.

Built on the bones of the 50 year old Holiday Hotel Casino, the Siena was rebuilt on an Italian Renaissance theme and opened to enthusiastic reviews. But the cost of the redo, estimated at $75 million dollars, meant it opened with a mountain of debt.

The Reno market was already flattening. The impact of Indian gaming in California had yet to be fully calculated. The picturesque riverside location had a downside. It was alone on the south bank, blocks from any other casino. And barely a month after it's launch, the attacks of 9-11 brought the tourism industry to a standstill.

Anyone of those factors would have made the Siena a challenge. Experts we talked with say combined, they may have doomed it from the beginning.

So, how is time running out on the Siena? Not quite. No one involved wants to see it close. "My fervent hope is that they will walk in here this afternoon with a check," says RSCVA CEO Ellen Oppenheim.

Or failing that a plan to cover the $135,000 they owe. Oppenheim says the Siena fills an important niche in the Reno market and it's closure would be a loss.

Reno Councilman Dwight Dortch agrees. "It would be bad for the community," he says. "They've done a great job over there. They've just had some tough times. We're going to try to find a solution that works for everyone.

So, don't write the obituary yet, but the factors that put the Siena in this position remain and as long as they do its path to financial health remains uncertain.


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