The Busby hotel had to be completely gutted, re-wired, re-plumbed, and its roof repaired, amongst other work. MICHAEL NORTHCOTT caught up with the managing director of the hotel’s parent company, Manorview Hotels, to learn more about the scope of the project.
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PROJECT BRIEF: Completely gut and refurbish hotel
HOTEL OWNER: Manorview Hotels
Give us a brief summary of the project and the timeframe?
We bought the hotel from out of administration in February 2013, and we operated the hotel until January 2014. We then closed for the refurbishment, and reopened on 21 October 2014. It was a full root-and-branch refurbishment, re-wiring, roof, re-plumbing, gutters, repairs to the roof, landscaping and fencing.
What was the design concept when you decided to refurbish?
The idea was to create a bar restaurant business and also a strong wedding venue. We had some nice outside areas. The idea was to have a traditional feel but have a quirky feel about it at the same time. In very neutral colours, and very comfortable, but at the same time it had some quirky seating and ornamental aspects to it. There is an entertainment area with a stage for live entertainment, and a fully operational kitchen with an open pass. So it is a bar, restaurant and entertainment venue all in one.
Did you use interior designers?
Yes we had interior designers who we explained what we wanted to, and they came up with the final content.
How long was the planning phase?
It was 11 months in the planning. From the day we bought the property we always knew we were going to be refurbishing the hotel. So getting the planning permission and planning it took that period of time.
What obstacles did you face with planning permission?
No obstacles whatsoever with planning application – it was the smoothest one I have ever experienced. The local authority could not have been more helpful in supporting us. East Renfrewshire council are very proactive in business development. The hotel was bought out of administration, had been rundown and was struggling to pay its bills, so they liked the fact that we wanted to develop it. Nothing that we’ve done was particularly contentious, other than the extension part that we have built.
What was the state of the building?
There was nothing structural, but every aspect of the internal areas needed work. The property needed completely stripping back. We stripped it right back to the walls and started again, and other than the four walls and the roof there was nothing left.
What was the overall cost of the project?
About £2.5m. To date that is probably the most expensive refurbishment we’ve carried out. The scope of the project was wider than previous work, and we took the spec and the standard up a notch, in terms of doors and finishes, and a Bose sound system throughout the hotel for example. The specification was higher than what we’ve done before.
What is your management role?
I am a majority shareholder and the managing director, and my niece Fallon Cowley and her husband Anthony are also directors and shareholders. Anthony is the property development director, Fallon is operations. We have a team in the head office, with accounts, PR, HR, all the aspects you need to run a business of this size.
How many hotels do you have?
Currently we have seven hotels and one under development. This hotel has the largest number of bedrooms of any in our portfolio.
When the refurbishment was actually taking place, were there any unwelcome surprises, or hair-raising moments?
We had health and safety arrive on site, and they were not happy with some of the aspects of the development, and they stopped work on the site for two days, until we identified and resolved their concerns, but apart from that, nothing else.
How has the response been from the public?
It has been fantastic, it has got stronger and stronger. Initially there was the very strong interest you get when you reopen a place. There were some teething problems, but all in all it went very well. Occupancy is running at 70-80% and profitability has got stronger.
Do you always have a project on the go?
We’re always either building a hotel or refurbishment some aspect of a property. I would say that we are property developers, but then we become the hotel operators – we don’t build them and then sell them.
What is your favourite thing about the finished Busby Hotel?
I particularly like the function room and the outside area of the function room, with the balcony area created as part of the extension. The most pleasing aspect is to take it from the condition it was in and then to see it developed into what it is now.