SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 16, 2013

Action stalls hotel plans

Salem: Expansion on hold due to ongoing legal battle in the Rockett family

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — A legal battle within one of the North Shore’s most prominent families continues to stall expansion plans for the Salem Waterfront Hotel.

A proposed $7 million addition, which would almost double the size of the 86-room hotel, is on hold due to a court attachment against the hotel, the Licensing Board was told Monday night.

“We haven’t been able to go forward,” attorney Joseph Correnti, who represented the hotel owners, told the three-member board. “The family is trying to work it out, but they haven’t been able to do that yet.”

The legal action has no impact on the Salem Waterfront Hotel, only on future plans.

Michael Rockett, a principal of the Salem Waterfront Hotel, had been called before the board for an update on a so-called “pocket,” or inactive, liquor license he plans to use for the long-delayed expansion of a hotel that opened in 2004.

He did not appear Monday night but was represented by Correnti and Tony Sasso, the former Marblehead town administrator, who is chief operating officer of Rockett Management.

Local licensing boards are under pressure from the state to keep a close watch on “pocket” licenses and often ask for status updates.

In 2007, the Rocketts announced plans to build a six-story addition on Pickering Wharf with hotel rooms, condominiums, a restaurant and function rooms. It would be connected to the main hotel by a glass walkway.

The second liquor license would be used for the new restaurant and function rooms.

Those plans were stalled by a national financial and real estate crisis, and then by legal issues.

In 2011, Denise Rockett filed lawsuits in Superior Court against her sons, Michael and Richard, over distribution of funds from a trust left by her late husband and the men’s father, J. Hilary Rockett, a former state representative and Marblehead selectman.

Last year, a judge granted Denise Rockett’s request for an attachment against the hotel and other property, according to a summary of court filings.

In addition to the hotel, the Rocketts own most of Pickering Wharf and substantial real estate in Marblehead and Salem.

The Rocketts or their attorney have appeared before the Licensing Board several times over the past few years for updates on the inactive liquor license.

Although Correnti is not handling the court case, he told the board that the legal issues should be resolved this year.

“There is progress being made,” he said. “We would expect some time in 2013 is when we would know the license will be freed up. ... We remain optimistic the project can go forward.”

The board asked Correnti to return in six months for another status report.

It also asked its clerk to call in other “pocket” license holders for similar updates.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.