Cato claims Ramada deal off

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 9, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Florida-based developer Charles Cato said Tuesday negotiations for him to purchase the Ramada Hilltop were called off earlier that day by the Swinney family, the hotel’s owners.

Representatives of the Swinney family would not comment.

Cato said he had proposed paying enough for the property to pay off all the Ramada’s creditors and mortgage.

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&uot;The money was there, and we could have concluded the deal in 48 hours,&uot; Cato said by telephone.

Cato had said earlier this year that he planned to upgrade the Ramada’s rooms, revamp the hotel’s lobby and add a spa and a theater for musical acts if the hotel deal went through.

However, Cato said he still plans to purchase the Briars bed-and-breakfast, which is located adjacent to the Ramada property, and that legal work on that deal should be finished in the next few days.

And Cato said he still plans to open a 87,000-square-foot casino on the Mississippi River just north of the river bridge.

&uot;We still have a couple of options for accessing that property even without (the Ramada deal),&uot; Cato said. &uot;We’re still excited about coming to Natchez.&uot;

Cato received Gaming Commission approval in February for the site and his development plans but still has to get the commission’s approval for a financing plan for the development.

The casino itself would include 35,000 square feet of gaming space, 800 slot machines and 30 table games.

Emerald Star must also secure environmental permits as well as approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.