RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Beyond the beautiful holiday exterior, there’s a pretty ugly legal dispute brewing over a lease and a potential eviction at the historic Mission Inn Riverside.
For 30 years, the Mission Inn Foundation has been showing tourists the eclectic decor that has made the hotel in Riverside famous. However, tours could soon become a thing of the past.
Some tours have already stopped after the Mission Inn Foundation, which also runs the museum gift shop, received a cease-and-desist letter from the hotel’s owners. The letter ordered them to hold no more than three tours a day per an original lease from decades ago, which is also the source of a legal battle over the eviction proceedings against the nonprofit.
"We’ve had to cancel over 2,500 [tours]. During the Festival of Lights season, we do a number of extra tours. This season, the most is 17, but it’s the same we’ve done over 30 years," said Jarod Hoogland, the Executive Director of the Mission Inn Foundation.
In a statement, the lawyer for the Mission Incorporation, which owns the property, accused the foundation of planning to hold as many as 100 tours a week, citing an unnamed docent as a warning to prepare for busloads of people.
"According to this docent, the purpose of increasing these tours was twofold; one, to create disruption in the hotel operations and two, to raise money for their attorney fees to continue their lawsuit against the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa," Ted Stream, Attorney for Mission Inn Corp. said in a provided statement.
Hoogland said they were "bewildered."
"Both the claims that we were trying to impair their operations and have this huge number of tours are inaccurate and again, strikes at the heart of who we are. Again, we want the Mission Inn to succeed," Hoogland added.
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It all stems back to when the city sold the hotel and a new lease was issued more than 22 years ago. The city says it no longer has the authority to extend the lease, and the Mission Inn isn't extending it either. In addition, the foundation has received an eviction notice, leaving its future and its tours in limbo.
"Mission Inn Foundation's position is that we have the right to renew the lease, and theirs is that we do not," Hoogland said.
The foundation's executive director says they received an eviction notice in September and have a trial date on December 18th. He says if they lose, the museum will have to move and the tours will go away, including for students. He says the public will no longer have access to much of the hotel unless they're paying guests.