For over half a century the Imperial Hotel on East St. Joseph Street has given people a roof over their head, food in their bellies, and something to quench their thirst. It has survived both good days and bad, and now the boss's daughter is trying to bring back the good.
In its prime the imperial hotel housed presidents and rock stars. It held banquets, had a restaurant, and was part of all the downtown action, but over the years things changed.
The owner's daughter Teresa Kurylas says that poor management in the recent past gave the hotel a bad reputation. At one point there was a strip club in one of its three venues and management was embezzling money.
Kurylas says she is turning that image around by holding fundraisers and other entertaining and legal events for the community such as "Underage Raves" and Latino Night. Employees say her constant presence and strict rules also keep people in the right. They consider the hotel an honest and safe place.
Kurylas says the imperial hotel will never be what it once was, but it has another purpose now. "It really warms my heart to see people having a good time and to see people who, especially my handicapped people that live here because everyone needs to be loved and I've already reached my goals here," said Kurylas with a smile.
Currently there are more residents that pay monthly or weekly than stay nightly. "We have quite a bit of, unemployment. The state helps get the community in here and get them a place to stay. Being broke is not a crime it's an inconvenience," said head bartender Brandee Johnson. She has worked at the Imperial hotel for almost a year and says she has already seen a transformation in employees and the crowd that events draw.
Next weekend there is a pool tournament at the imperial that will put its large venues to use. Kurylas estimates nearly 250 people will attend.