“For the last few weeks that we are open, I want it to be a celebration of the past four and one half years that I have been privileged to own and operate our business in this great location and in my hometown,” wrote Alan Martin in an letter to customers emailed to The Star.
Martin said he started as a busboy and server at the Victoria in 1988, before going on to culinary school and working in restaurants in Birmingham.
He said that when he found out about the opportunity to buy the business, he couldn’t pass up the chance.
“It was truly a full circle story and a dream come true,” he said.
When asked why he decided to close the business, Martin said, “I’d like to say that I had to make a smart business decision. I’d like to leave it at that and not go into all the reasons.”
Martin owns the restaurant and leases the space the business occupies. After the restaurant closes, The Victoria Inn hotel will continue to operate as a separate enterprise.
The city of Anniston in September bought the entire Victoria Inn from the Jacksonville State University Foundation’s real estate holding company. But city manager Brian Johnson said the property has been managed by Birmingham-based Jackson Hospitality Services, and any new owner would be a subtenant of the company.
Cory Jackson Jr., president of Jackson Hospitality Services, said Thursday afternoon that he had just received word of Martin’s decision, and he could not comment on the company’s plans for the restaurant.
“An hour is too quick to come up with a game plan,” he said.
Johnson and Martin also declined to comment on the future of the restaurant.
Johnson said city leaders bought the property to ensure the inn would go to an owner who wants to preserve and improve the Anniston landmark.
“The city is not making money on this,” he said. “In fact, the city is prepared to lose money if it means that we have given the keys to that facility to someone we feel is truly going to commit to that property.”
Johnson said city leaders want to either renovate the inn or sell it to an owner with similar plans.
Asked how much city officials plan to spend on improvements, Johnson declined to give figures, citing concerns that it could hamper future real estate deals.
Johnson said the Victoria Inn is a beloved landmark in the city, and the site deserves an owner who loves it.
Anniston Land Company President John Martin McKleroy had the Queen Anne-style home built in 1888.
The home also was owned by Emory Foundry Company president Coleman Wilson and Frank Kirby, president and chairman of the board for Anniston Electric Company.
In 1985, with the addition of a 26-room annex, the home opened as the Victoria Inn.
Local developer Earlon McWhorter and his wife, Betty, donated the property to JSU’s nonprofit arm in December of 2008.
The university put the inn up for sale in March of 2012.
The property now has 63 rooms and, according to county tax records, was appraised at $2.87 million.
In his letter to customers, Martin said he appreciates the city of Anniston’s efforts to preserve the landmark.
“I sincerely hope that the future for the Victoria property is bright,” he said. “I wish nothing more than for it to succeed as it is a truly unique and beautiful part of Anniston’s history.”
Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.