What prompted the refurbishment?
The local area is doing really well at the moment and there has been this regeneration going across the full length of the coast near the hotel. So it seemed like the perfect time to bring the hotel back up to its former glory.
Did the hotel remain open during the construction work?
It did. We decided to keep the hotel open throughout the refurbishment but it was on a restricted service, meaning we didn’t have dining facilities and blocked off one half of the hotel while we did the bedrooms. So we had a lowered occupancy throughout the renovation.
Were there any challenges that came with keeping the hotel open?
Absolutely, but it was more towards the end of the construction. When we were doing the bedrooms we were able to contain the mess, but when we did the restaurant and bar it was right on the front of the hotel and when guests were checking in they were panicking and thinking that the hotel wasn’t actually open, whereas it was fine once you got inside. It looked messy because they were replacing all of the windows.
What has been refurbished?
We have completely refurbished all of the 50 bedrooms, which included brand new furniture, brand new ceilings, new carpets; everything has been replaced. We have also tried to capture the art deco roots of the hotel as well, because has this 1930s art deco look on the outside so we wanted to bring that look inside as well.
We have got the new restaurant and bar as well that has been completely refurbished from scratch, created by a designer from architecture firm Creative Design. He restored the original ceiling, which now showcases the original brickwork and the flooring as well. We also created a new beer garden at the front of the property, hopefully allowing us to catch the dog walkers and passersby during the summer.
How long has the renovation work taken?
It started in October 2017 with the bedrooms, but it had to stop during the Christmas period. The main bulk of the work began in January this year.
When will the property full complete the works?
We are actually quite ahead of schedule as the restaurants opened on Saturday 25 August. But we still have the reception area to finish, which we are hoping will be completed close to the end of September.
Has the restaurant menu been revamped as well?
Yes, we have a brand new menu and a new chef. He has joined the team and has completely improved things, everything is local and really just of a higher standard. It’s really different from what the hotel has ever had.
Did the staff have a hand in any of the design plans?
Yeah, because we have a brand new management team which started in January of this year each department had a say in what was more relevant to them in terms of design. So the grandson of the owner of the hotel was the project manager for the restaurant and bedrooms and he employed the interior designer. But everybody had a say on what they thought and it was really great to see the owners of the hotel take on what the staff were saying.
We were so conscious that the people in the local area wanted the hotel to go back to its original standard, because locally it was quite a famous hotel but it went into decline and became a coaching hotel and then that’s why now we have gone for this brand new look. We thought the art deco style needed to come back, because that’s when the hotel was in its prime during the 30s and 40s.
What has been your favourite aspect of the project so far?
I would say the restaurant. Just because everyone who has been coming in has been completely shocked about how it looks compared with what it used to be. I haven’t seen a restaurant interior as stunning as this one.
Has the size of the restaurant increased then?
The restaurant has around 120 covers now, but then there is also additional space outside on the decking, an extra 50 seats or so.
Where there any difficulties in terms of the actual construction?
Yes, because the hotel hasn’t had any major construction for a long time things like the roof had to be replaced in certain areas. The property has a flat roof and as you can image that isn’t ideal.
We also uncovered the original ceiling in the restaurant which we didn’t know was there. The roof had these awful polystyrene tiles, which we pulled down, and we discovered this beautiful looking coving that was quite damaged. We had to get a tradesmen to come in who knew what he was doing and he resorted the whole thing. It was mainly things like that, more to do with the refurbishment of original parts of the property because it was so old.
And how were the bedrooms refurbished?
The actual bedrooms themselves have been redesigned and are now matching with the whole art deco theme running throughout the property. This included art deco wall paper, brand new light fittings, new ceilings; there is nothing left of the old hotel bedrooms. The beds were updated as well.
What about plans for future refurbishment work?
The function rooms have just had lick of paint at the moment, just a tidy up really. So they will be getting completely refurbished next year hopefully. This is because one of goals of the hotel is to be considered as the main venue in the north-east for weddings and events. Due to the size of the hotel we could easily take up to 1600 people for events, but at the moment it is not being used to its full potential. From a sales perspective we really want to be a front-runner for weddings.
How soon would that work take place?
Hopefully in January as a ‘phase 2’ of the refurbishment. It’s really about getting the design, since the way it works at the moment all of the rooms open up in divides, so you can have this huge exhibition where you can walk from side of the hotel to the other. But with that it doesn’t make for beautiful function room sometimes .
How did the renovation cost overall?
The estimated budget is £3m.
Who handled the construction work?
The owner of the hotel hired local builders and tradesmen who have worked non stop since the start of the renovation.
How has the response to the refurbishment been like so far?
We are really delighted with the feedback, especially from the local residents surrounding the hotel. We also did a campaign recently were we asked people to send in photographs of events they have had at the hotel over the years, such as weddings dating all the way back to 1945. I think people really want the hotel to be fabulous. It’s a big sigh of relief that everybody likes what we have done.
This article first appeared in the September 2018 issue of Hotel Owner