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"Most of the people that come down here in the wintertime, they just worship the sun," he says. He leans his head back and spreads his palms toward the sky in imitation of his seasonal sunbathers. "They're out there all day long, sunbathing, swimming. They love it."
While still in high school, Tremblay handled a slew of part-time duties here, ranging from front-desk clerk to maintenance man. With his mother in charge of housekeeping and his father at the helm, Tremblay says the first ten years of business were good ones. Especially during season. "Everything was full. Everything would get a top rate; at check-out time, people were literally rushing the lobby just to get a room. It was only for three months or so, but during that time you could bank on making that amount of money," Tremblay recalls.
He says the flow dried up about six years ago, when the Canadian dollar spiraled downward and many of his onetime countrymen began traveling to the Caribbean islands, Mexico, or even Cuba instead of Florida -- anyplace where tourists didn't lose half their spending money just by exchanging it. "That killed Hollywood's tourism," Tremblay says. "You ended up making half of what you used to make. You'd have a hard time filling up, and there was a lot of shopping around, a lot of bargaining. Everybody was cutting their rates. It was a whole different ball game." He adds that he knew of many motel owners who lost their businesses because they couldn't pay their mortgages.
Tremblay credits his father's experience as a motelier in Canada as part of the reason the Entrada stayed afloat. In order to meet expenses, the family began renting at weekly rates during the summer, sometimes as low as $55 a week.
"There wasn't that much profit there, but anything was better than an empty room that wasn't making any money," he says. "It was tough. It was many years where, at the end of the summer, we were up to our necks in debt. The credit cards would be to the max. We were really struggling to make it."
Slow seasons and a sluggish exchange rate weren't all that plagued the Entrada. With lower summer rates came a more transient clientele. And problems. Often the Entrada would get what Tremblay calls a "bad room," guests who fought loudly or who tried to sell drugs or pimp out of the motel. Once the Tremblays realized what was going on, the family would immediately boot out the undesirables.
Most motels in the city are legit. But some aren't. "For a multitude of reasons, they fall behind [on their bills] and choose to engage in illegal activities," says Lt. Ritchy Allen of the Hollywood Police Department. "They rent for the purposes of prostitution, or they allow drugs to be sold on the premises." Allen adds that the introduction of crack cocaine on Federal Highway in the mid-to-late '80s contributed to the devolution.
Allen heads up the city's crime-suppression unit, a task force that has focused on areas with high arrest volumes, including the Federal Highway corridor, which hosts 26 motels in Hollywood. Within the past three years, Allen's unit has charged the owners of three motels -- the Budget Motel, the Venezia, and the Blue Sands -- with multiple felonies. The charges included health and safety violations, credit card fraud, delivery of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school, the purchase of crystal methamphetamines, and the ever-present problem of renting for purposes of prostitution. Between October 1999 and October 2000, Hollywood police made 1300 prostitution-related arrests along Federal Highway. About 90 percent of the girls arrested have substance-abuse problems.
Unlike some other motels, the Entrada isn't on Allen's hit list. "We certainly don't think he's running an errant motel," he says and adds that more than half of the 56 vice-related calls this year surrounding the motel were stings conducted by the police on the Entrada's adjacent street, which intersects Federal Highway. He speculates that the rest of the calls were made by Entrada's management in an attempt to kick out unruly or suspicious guests.
Despite his efforts Tremblay still feels the community holds a roughhousing image of his motel. "Every time you see something on TV about Hollywood and prostitution, my sign always comes up somehow," he says with a sigh. Five years ago he spent close to $20,000 on a security gate that now encircles the motel's rooms and common areas in order to make his guests feel safer. "I wish we could have done it many years before. But we just didn't have the money. Now people feel more private, more secure. They like it."
He has also hired a security guard to patrol the premises seven nights a week, and Tremblay's office contains four surveillance cameras monitoring and taping the property 24 hours a day. He and his staff notify one another if they witness rooms with too much traffic or noise. He's always required a photo ID for check-in, but a few weeks ago, at the suggestion of one cop, he bought a color copy machine so he could keep more accurate records.