When NASCAR’s ruined Daytona birthplace was on reality TV

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With the popularity of Formula 1 centered Drive to survive on Netflix, other racing series have begun to renew their presence in the television and streaming landscape. MotoGP is set to release its own docuseries in partnership with Amazon Prime Video. A NASCAR docuseries covering the 2021 Cup Series playoffs is set to air on the USA Network. This new wave of content is interesting and exciting. This wave also pushed the previous brief moments when the race appeared on reality TV into obscurity. Moments like when the hotel where NASCAR was founded was thrust into the national spotlight for a week

Hotel Impossible was a reality television series that ran for eight seasons and over 100 episodes on the Travel Channel. The show fits the archetype of most business improvement programs, and its premise was similar to Gordon Ramsey’s Nightmares in the kitchen. Experienced hotelier and hospitality expert Anthony Melchiorri visited independent hotels in difficulty and have attempted reverse their fortunes. I should also mention that Gordon Ramsey simultaneously hosted a similar show on Fox called Hotel Hell.

Anthony Melchiorri (L) and Streamline Hotel owner Eddie Hennessy (R)

Anthony Melchiorri (L) and Streamline Hotel owner Eddie Hennessy (R)
Screenshot: The Travel Channel

The Streamline Hotel was featured in the first episode of the show’s fifth season. The Streamline is where negotiations led by Bill France Sr. took place and concluded with the founding of NASCAR in 1947. Despite the establishment’s prominent place in racing history, the hotel fell in ruins over the decades. During the episode, Melchiorri quoted the Daytona Police Chief stating that the Streamline was “a hive of nefarious activity”.

As Melchiorri toured the property, he inspected rusting air conditioning units and crumbling ceilings. During the triage tour, the episode’s main conflict was set up between Anthony Melchiorri and hotel general manager Demetri Karagiannis. Karagiannis is a longtime friend of hotel owner Eddie Hennessy and has no experience in the hospitality industry. While talking with Karagiannis, the fire alarm goes off and the General Manager doesn’t know how to turn off the alarm or communicate with the guests.

The (old) toilet ceiling in the Streamline lobby

The (old) toilet ceiling in the Streamline lobby
Screenshot: The Travel Channel

The conflict came to a head after the production crew filmed candid footage of Karagiannis having a profanity-filled tirade with the IT guy in the parking lot. He complained about how the maintenance manager and housekeeper threw him under the bus in front of Melchiorri and said he wanted to punch the show host in the mouth. Karagiannis was visibly uncomfortable and angry during the tour, constantly clenching his jaw the entire time.

A big turning point in the episode came during an interlude away from the hotel at Daytona International Speedway. Admittedly, I laughed out loud when Melchiorri called NASCAR “one of the best run organizations in the world.”around 2014. On the track, Melchiorri and Hennessy talked with then-President Joie Chitwood III. When asked, Chitwood said that it is never okay for a business leader to lose control, a pointed reference to the earlier incident with Karagiannis.

Hotel general manager Demetri Karagiannis (R)

Hotel general manager Demetri Karagiannis (R)
Screenshot: The Travel Channel

The episode quickly flew at its peak. The model of a renovated hotel room is complete. Hennessy said the staff that they will be out of work for the 30 days of renovations, which they are all oddly pleased to hear. Hennessy does the episode’s big decision and gave himself the role of managing director but kept Karagiannis as his assistant. The episode ended on a sincere note like Melchiorri recommended that name Hennessy the bar on the ground floor late brother Olivier.

Wish I could say things got better for the Streamline Hotel after Hotel Impossible visited. The good news is that the Streamline Hotel is still open. However, the hotel probably wasn’t as successful as Eddie Hennessy hoped. In 2019, he listed the hotel in an online auction, hoping to sell the property for more $7 million. The bid never reached that amount and he deleted the listing. Hennessy had invested $6 million in the hotel while he owned it. He said the Daytona Beach News-Journal“It stopped at $6.9 million. It’s a very solid number, a very good number, but we’re not ready to let go just yet.”

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