By JACK WEATHERLY
Praises are being sung about the Grammy Museum Mississippi, and The Lyric, a boutique hotel, will add its voice to the chorus.
The $8 million hotel will be built one mile from the museum on Highway 8 west, according to Suresh Chawla, president of Chawla Hotels Inc. of Greenwood.
He made it clear what brought the project about.
“This hotel would not have been developed if the Grammy Museum were not coming to town,” he said Saturday at an impromptu press conference called at the Holiday Inn Express, one of four Chawla properties in Cleveland.
The Lyric Hotel and Spa will be the 18th hostelry in the family’s chain, all in the Delta, Chawla said.
It aims for it be to Cleveland what another boutique hotel, The Alluvian, is to Greenwood, which would not have been built were it not for Viking Range.
Chawla is looking for a four- or five-star restaurant as the centerpiece of the hotel.
“We’ve got a lot of interesting propositions for that,” he added. “We want to have a classy restaurant here.”
There will be live music seven days a week, “which is a huge feature. Because international travelers come for the music, blues music.”
“We’re partnering with the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University,” students of which will be key in providing musical talent.
Additionally there will be a large garden and reception area for weddings and other social functions.
It will also have a yoga spa, a bar and a “converted cotton gin” as a meeting room – which will look just like that on the outside but on the inside will be state of the art, he said.
The hotel, which will create 60 to 80 jobs — 50 to 60 of which will be full-time — to go with more than 300 at the other properties, including Holiday Inn Express and certain Choice Hotel Properties such as Rodeway Inns and Comfort Inns and Hampton Inns, the brand of the most recent of property in the chain, which opened last month in Indianola.
Construction will commence in Cleveland on a 17-acre plot in April, with completion expected in February 2017, he said.
The project will take up 10 acres, with the remaining acreage for possible future development, he said.
The family’s history in the hospitality industry began in 1988, when his father wanted to build a 40-room motel in Greenwood.
But he was turned down at every turn, until he called Donald Trump’s organization and asked for a $450,000 loan.
“He had over 50 rejection letters from banks. So he was thinking outside the box and approached Donald Trump for a loan.
“Donald Trump called my father at his convenience store.”
Trump said, ‘This is small fry. I don’t have time for this. But I want to tell you that your idea is wonderful. I love your story of being an immigrant (from India) who comes to America and succeeds with a convenience store and has a couple of kids in college.
“’I think it’s great. You need to consider getting a Small Business Administration minority loan.'” Within six months, he got an SBA minority loan.
“My father passed away on May 24, 2015. Three weeks later, Donald Trump announces for office.
“I wish my father had been here to have seen this election. I’m not a Donald Trump supporter but his inspiration helped my father 28 years ago. We wouldn’t be here with all these hotels.”
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