Sunday, Nov. 21, 1999 | 4:38 a.m.
The Maxim hotel-casino, an off-Strip resort long saddled with financial problems, closed its doors Sunday, throwing 690 people out of work.
"The last of the guests are leaving now," Maxim operator Ed Nigro said early Sunday afternoon. "We'll be padlocking the place in about an hour."
Nigro said none of the hotel's 800 rooms were rented past Saturday night, so no guests were caught by surprise.
There were earlier reports that the casino would close but the hotel would remain open until next month.
Late Saturday, Nigro issued a statement saying the report was based on "misinformation" from the Maxim's mortgage holder and owners.
Nigro, a longtime casino executive here, declined to speculate on the resort's future.
"That's the $64,000 question," he said.
Hotel occupancy was running in the 90 percent range, but Nigro said guests were opting to spend their gambling dollars at the city's newer megaresorts.
The hotel was built 22 years ago and Nigro said Sunday that some of the rooms had not been renovated during that period. He said the hotel needed $15 million to $20 million in renovations to be competitive in the booming Las Vegas market.
Nigro said the hotel needed the owners to make a commitment to keep the property open, and that didn't happen.
The Maxim is owned by Premier Interval Resorts. Meralex, a Georgia business, loaned Premier $42 million to purchase the hotel-casino.
In a lawsuit filed Friday afternoon, Meralex claims the entire $42 million is still outstanding.
The lawsuit claims Premier defaulted when it failed to pay $315,000 in interest that was due Oct. 17.
Meralex claims its interest in the property, that has a deed of trust securing a May promissory note, would be damaged if the Maxim shut its doors.
"If the Maxim is closed, it will decrease in value as a going concern," Meralex executive Howard Jenkins said in an affidavit filed with Friday's lawsuit.
Premier bought the Maxim from West Coast Mortgage Ltd., which had foreclosed on the hotel-casino in April 1998 after a series of disputes with former Maxim owner John Anderson, a California rancher.