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Staff photo by Doug Strickland / The Dwell Hotel is seen downtown on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed another casualty in Chattanooga's hospitality industry.

The Dwell Hotel, along with the Matilda Midnight bar on East 10th Street in downtown Chattanooga, have shut down. Seija Ojanpera, who converted the former Stone Fort Inn into the 16-room boutique hotel in 2016, said she can no longer afford to keep the doors open to the hotel or restaurant and is seeking a buyer for the business.

"Being only 16 rooms, The Dwell Hotel has not been able to withstand the financial impact of losing a busy spring season full of weddings and buzzy cocktail nights," Ojanpera said in an Instagram post."We also can't sustain ourselves on an unpredictable rest of the year. So we have decided to sell."

A restaurant tenant in the back of the hotel on Custom Street, Syrup and Eggs, remains open in the hotel's Solarium for breakfast, brunch, and cocktails Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ojanpera and her partner, Allan Davis, bought the former Stone Fort Inn in 2015 for $1.85 million, according to Hamilton County property records. She converted the three-story, century-old building into a unique 16-room hotel, restaurant and bar. The Dwell Hotel billed itself as "a swanky take on mid-century modern, where luxury meets retro, and high class meets high comfort." Its rooms featured furnishings from the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

The Dwell Hotel was the first small boutique hotels to open in downtown Chattanooga, although a handful of others have since opened or are being planned in the central city, including The Edwin, Moxy, Bode, and Kinley hotels.

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Staff photo by Tim Barber / Seija Ojanpera talks about dining area in The Dwell Hotel. The coronavirus has forced the hotel to shut down and Ojanpera has put the business up for sale

The Dwell was located in the site of the former Colonial Hotel, which opened in 1909.

In her post, Ojanpea said the decision to sell The Dwell "is tough" since owning a hotel has been a lifetime dream she was able to fulfill when she opened the hotel at the age of 33 in 2016.

"We, as a team, have poured every ounce of our love into the design and the service that brought so many of you back time and again," Ojanpea said. "My dream of owning a hotel came true in such a beautiful fashion, and I will always carry that immense joy with me."

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, The Dwell shut down indefinitely on March 17 and said at the time the business "cannot wait to get back open to serve you." But the hotel catered to many weddings and other parties, which were canceled when such gatherings were banned to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and the business was never able to reopen this spring.

March and April are normally busy months for Chattanooga's $1.1 billion-a-year tourism industry, with about 70% of Hamilton County's hotel rooms booked in a typical March or April. The coronavirus crisis has devastated the hotel industry globally. In Chattanooga in April, room occupancy was down more than 36% from the same month in 2019. In March, it was down nearly 35%.

Ojanpea said those who have future bookings at The Dwell can cancel them or hold on the them at no risk "in case an awesome buyer comes in quickly and the hotel reopens, then you'll have your space held."

"We are in the process of searching for the right buyer for The Dwell Hotel!," she added. "So keep checking back to see when the doors will re-open."

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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