For all those who read this story, whether you be interested in buying this business or forum administrators, be assured that it is true and I have no reason to defame a business in Antigua and it's owner. I don't live in Guatemala and have nothing to do with the hostel industry there. On the contrary, for anyone interested I do have as proof the threatening emails I received before I left the country proving what happened and that the owner of the Holistico is in fact a violent alcoholic and an accomplice to criminal behavior. This sequence of events is also known to a number of well-respected individuals within the expat community of Antigua. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me personally.
I went to go see Hostal Holistico last weekend and decided I wanted to buy it. It's beautiful, spotless and provides a lovely atmosphere for guests. It's one of the best hostels in Antigua and with a little work could shine even more. From the moment I walked-in, it felt like a no-brainer. THAT SAID, I STRONGLY ADVISE YOU ALL NOT TO CONTACT THIS GUY AS A MATTER OF PERSONAL SAFETY. PROTECT YOURSELVES AND STAY AWAY! My desire to purchase the hostel turned-into one of the scariest experiences of my life, from which I am still recovering. I am lucky to have gotten out of there without having experienced any kind of bodily harm.
For those who might believe I have some sort of personal agenda in this matter (and to the owner Sergio who no doubt will respond to this message with lies), I urge you to go on Tripadvisor and check the "terrible" reviews for this business. They are not about the rooms or cleanliness or location (because it really is wonderful), rather guests describing scenarios of having to deal with someone who is a violent, unstable alcoholic. We don't have personal vendettas and we're not out to get you Sergio. You simply made us feel unsafe and in my case conspired with someone involved in criminal behavior in a way to have potentially put me physically at risk.
When I arrived on the morning of the 18th to see the business Sergio showed me around the hostel but was unable to show me the private rooms because they were occupied by guests and he said it was a matter of professionalism (frustrating, but I understood his position). He then took me upstairs after abusively screaming at one of his employees (this should have been my first warning sign and they seem terrified of him) and had a pile of paperwork to show me. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until he was A) unwilling to disclose any financial information about the business and B) not willing to allow me to be in contact with the landlords to ensure that the lease would be able to extended past its February 2017 expiration date. I explained to him I wouldn't buy a business in a rented building until I could ensure that I could keep operating in it long term, and by then (after he had put down most of a bottle of wine and began to behave in a vindictive and unstable matter and began to refer to me as "his boy") he had insisted in that order to talk to the landlords I would have to sign a pre-purchase agreement and pay him $20,000 first. Between that, not having it been arranged to see much of the business I was interested in purchasing and his behavior I left, annoyed and frustrated.
Later that day I received an email from him apologizing, telling me he had "news from the landlords" and offered to show me the private rooms the next day at noon. When I showed up he did indeed show me the rooms, and dealt with the lease issue by saying he would take me to personally meet and discuss the terms with the attorneys of the landlords the next morning. Fair enough. So we shook on it, he invited me to be a guest of his that evening and offered to take me to lunch.
Part of our agreement was he would bring me to his immigration attorney the next morning to help me deal with the issue of my partner being denied a tourist visa into Guatemala (being Ecuadorian) and help him get into the country legally as a condition of any agreement. More on this shortly, because it is this issue that ultimately put me in danger.
During lunch he began drinking heavily, became terribly drunk and became unstable. One moment he was offering me a toast and introducing me to the staff as the next owner of the Holistico, and then out of nowhere he starts to screaming at me like a maniac and accusing me of being there as a "spy" for one of the other hostels in town and said that if I wanted his business I would need to pay him $40,000 within 24 hours or no deal. When I tried to calm him down (thinking all I needed to do was deal with him for another day and have it be an attorney's headache) he said that if I didn't "get the f**k out of there" he would "call the police and have me arrested." Well, he did calm down, at which point he suggested we continue our conversation at another place, a bar nearby.
He then proceeded to drink more (bottle #4 of wine for the day), started rubbing my arm and crying like a baby about needing to sell the hostel, apologizing for how difficult it was for him while at the same time bragging about how he kicks out guests to the street if he doesn't like them and how he likes his staff to live in fear of him. Yet again I kept telling myself, "he's willing to sell and help you with what you need, just get through it for another 24 hours."
The next morning (after not sleeping well given how shaken-up I was by the situation) he did indeed introduce me to his accountant, the attorney for the landlord and his immigration attorney. I brought the attorney, "Victor Hugo," all the information on my partner including his passport and personal information to the extranjeria in Guatemala City and paid him 500Q for his time to go there. I told Sergio that if everything went well with that I would sign a promissory agreement along with a hefty deposit for the business within the week.
That evening I went back to the Holistico and it was then that things started to go terribly wrong. This "Victor Hugo" showed-up and explained to me some convoluted and illegal plan to smuggle my partner into the country on a boat from Nicaragua to El Salvador and then across the border into Guatemala. That it would cost me $1000 and that I would need to pay half right then and there. When I began to resist saying under no circumstances would I agree to such an agreement, Sergio (intoxicated beyond belief) took the key and locked the front gate so I wouldn't be able to get out using the buzzer. The hostel was dark and empty that night, and they said I wouldn't be able to leave until A) I paid the lawyer $500 to smuggle my partner into the country and B) transferred $5,000 to Sergio as a deposit to "prove" I wanted to buy the business. I told Sergio I would give him all the money he needed for the business once I had my own personal attorney review the documents beforehand and the lawyer that under no circumstances would I pay him to get my partner into the country illegally. That I wasn't to be shaken-down for money, and things if at all were to be legal and safe. The lawyer told me that if I didn't pay him right then and there that he would use his connections in immigration to make sure I got detained and would not be allowed to leave the country and Sergio made clear he would not let potential buyers use their own attorneys in any transaction.
Long story short, I told them I needed to "call my partner" (then in Nicaragua), went back to my room, packed my stuff up like a madman and instead contacted friends in Antigua to call the police, come as witnesses and help me get out of there safely.
During my time in the room the "lawyer" (if he was one at all) came banging on the door demanding the money. I told him I wasn't able to reach my partner in Nicaragua and that we'd have to arrange payment and logistics in the morning. He was incensed but realized he wasn't getting the money at that moment, so he had Sergio use the key and unlock the door for him. Once it was unlocked I grabbed my belongings, buzzed myself out and ran out of there with my friends waiting outside to safety and a hostel that took me in for the night.
After taking some time to relax I checked-my email only to find emails from Sergio saying "we have all your information, I gave your passport number to the police and they are looking for you, and that you'd better be nice and come pay."
I had 24 more hours in Antigua to get through and was scared for my safety the entire time. I didn't believe the owner of the Holistico, Sergio, posed an immediate threat but the "lawyer," this "Victor Hugo" was obviously criminal and who knows what he was capable of. On my way out Sergio yelled that the lawyer would have his people out looking for me and that, I believed.
No one deserves to go through the ordeal I faced to fulfill their dream of buying a hostel. I wish you all the best of success in your endeavors, and if you choose to contact Sergio at the Holistico that's not my business. But please, be careful.