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Several units of the Knights Inn in Cayce burn Friday night

Cayce, SC (Paul Kirby) – Several units in the 400 building of the Knights Inn at Airport Boulevard and the west bound exit ramp of I-26 caught fire and burned Friday night. The fire started sometime before 10:00 p.m. and had firefighters and equipment from the Cayce Department of Public Safety, Lexington County’s Fire Service, and the West Columbia Fire Department were on scene. 1st Sgt. Evan Antley of Cayce said that only Commerce Drive was restricted by the fire department's water supply hoses at the height of the operation.

The Knights Inn has had a rather infamous history. Decades ago, the construction of the motel was said to have been unique and was supposed to be the up and coming thing. Each of the rooms were built off site to completion as modules. Each of he modules were then trucked to the prepared land on flatbed trucks, unloaded with cranes, and then assembled on location into a row of buildings. The other modules were trucked in, lined up, connected, and it all eventually became the complex or motel.

For some years, the facility fit nicely into its own niche of budget motels that made up a mixture of economy and mid-price lodging in that area. Over the years, as the Knights Inn aged, others around it like the Best Western, and the several budget motels on the west side of the interchange began to age too. They weren’t regularly updated, their prices stayed low, and as time went by, it made the entire reputation of the lodging options in that area deteriorate and become trouble for the owners and law enforcement.

Last spring, the Knights Inn changed hands again. With prices still between $40 and $50 per night, the Knights Inn changed from an economy motel to a crime ridden property. It became a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless people who were just looking to find a place to stay for a night, and indigent families looking for lodging they could occupy for longer stretches with low prices and especially no deposits credit checks as apartments would require. Each day, a school bus from Lexington Two would stop by to pick up and drop off children who lived in the motel with their parents on a longer-term basis.

Cayce Director of Public Safety Byron Snellgrove made it very clear last fall he was nearing the end of his rope and running out of patience with the management of the motel. As the nature of the crimes at the Knights Inn became more frequent and serious, he publicly said he'd had enough of the bad behavior of the owners and lack of cooperation with his officers. The last straw for Chief Snellgrove was a woman who was allegedly assaulted on the property but was refused the use of a telephone by office staff to call 911. At that point, he began the necessary steps to close the place down.

As the class of people changed, more problems came. After calls for police service increased dramatically, and the severity of crimes law enforcement responded to also got worse, the City of Cayce took the necessary steps to first suspend and then revoke the business’s license. It had been closed since the last municipal hearing regarding that revocation.

Friday’s fire heavily damaged the multiple units that were involved. Cayce has neither said what started the fire or how much damage was done at this point.

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