By December-end, Karol Bagh’s Gurdwara Road, where a majority of the 215 hotels are, was abuzz with news of Hotel Arpit Palace being put up for auction. The e-auction letter, circulated among them on WhatsApp, valued the 435 sq-yard property at Rs 27 crore.
Brewing troubles of the Goel family, which owned the hotel, were known to all. “They lived in a sprawling kothi here and were considered the ‘rich’ of Karol Bagh. But that, too, was sold a while ago,” said a hotel owner.
At the centre of the Karol Bagh tragedy is Rakesh Goel, who founded Hotel Arpit Palace in 1993, and was still running it — except on paper. According to the e-auction notice, the loan was taken by M/S Gadhinglaj Agro Alcochem Limited. Rakesh was a director in the company between 2010 and 2015. His son, who became a director in 2010, continues in the position along with two others. The company also manufactures chemical products. Rakesh is currently a director in two firms — Max Impex Private Limited and Atul Constructions Private Limited.
Rakesh, believed to be in Doha at the moment, could not be contacted for a comment. The hotel’s general manager and assistant manager have been arrested.
“The Goel family has lived in Karol Bagh for decades, and used to have a paints business. In the early ’90s, Rakesh started City Castle hotel in partnership here, and it was very popular, especially among foreigners. That partnership broke and Rakesh set up Arpit Palace,” said a hotel owner.
An old-timer in Karol Bagh, Rakesh was known to be “kind to his staff and of a trusting nature”, but also “barely interested in attending hotel association meetings to discuss a policy or an issue”. A hotel owner recalled an informal meeting with business owners in the area a while ago, about not following the “couple-friendly” policy being pushed by online hotel booking portals. “Unmarried youngsters were booking hotels and ruining the family vibe of the place, but Rakesh didn’t care,” said a hotel owner.
Another businessman in the area recalled an afternoon in the ’90s when a government agency reached Hotel Arpit Palace to demolish an extra floor — but allegedly stopped in an hour after Rakesh met the officials. “The terrace kitchen and restaurant were there for everyone to see. Is it possible the authorities didn’t know?” said a hotel owner.
An associate of Rakesh said he lost his house and the hotel was put up for auction after his son’s project of a distillery in Madhya Pradesh couldn’t obtain a licence.