Fears for 20 jobs after Portaferry's only hotel closes
A town has been left stunned over news of the sudden closure of its only hotel - leaving uncertainty over 20 jobs.
The Portaferry Hotel, which dates back to the 1700s, has closed for the foreseeable future. It is understood that a wedding planned to be held there may now have to be cancelled and that the 20 hotel staff have been left devastated.
They were given no notice and are now facing a bleak future.
The hotel is owned by businessman Bill Wolsey's group Beannchor.
A spokesman for Beannchor said it had been letting the business to a couple who have full operational responsibility for the running of the business.
Union Unite's regional officer Davy Edmont described the closure as a "brutal blow" for the small rural town at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, which he said is already suffering over the "ongoing closure of Exploris aquarium".
"Taking the two closures together, over 50 jobs have been lost in this locality in the past year," he said.
"In response, Unite is calling for a meeting with Bill Wolsey, the owner, to discuss what plans, if any, he has for the long term of this well-known establishment."
A spokesperson for Beannchor said it holds a reversionary interest in the Portaferry Hotel but has "no operational responsibility" for the running of the business.
"Due to circumstances beyond our control, The Portaferry Hotel has regrettably been forced to close until further notice," he said. "We were notified late on Sunday, October 18 that the tenants, Mr and Mrs McAleese, intended to leave the business with immediate effect.
"Mr and Mrs McAleese have full operational responsibility for the running of the business, to include responsibility for guests and employees."
Portaferry resident Greg Sachno has called for action to save the hotel.
"Portaferry Hotel is a mainstay for our local tourism economy and its loss will be a devastating blow. I am calling on all community representatives, local politicians and residents to rally in support of the staff at the hotel," he said.
"To throw people on the dole, many of whom have young families, a few months before Christmas is Dickensian and shameful. I am calling for all stakeholders to draw up a plan including a community-based strategy to save the hotel and get the staff back to work as soon as possible."