Belfast Telegraph

Delay-hit George Best hotel has £6,000 debt notice pinned to door

The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre
The George Best hotel in Belfast city centre
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

A debt notice has been pinned to the door of the George Best Hotel site in Belfast city centre seeking payment of just over £6,000.

The notice, spotted yesterday at the property on Donegall Square South and Bedford Street, was served by MKB Law Ltd, which counts the Merchant Hotel's owner Bill Wolsey and Lynas Foodservice among its clients.

It reads: "The creditor claims that you owe the sum of £6,157.19 full particulars...

"The creditor demands that the company do pay the above debt or secure or compound for it to the creditor's satisfaction."

Liverpool-based Signature Living, which is behind the hotel project, told the Belfast Telegraph that the notice refers to legal fees that the company did not receive "as it was incorrectly sent to the construction site in Belfast".

Earlier in the month, another spokesperson for the company, which said it would launch the hotel last Christmas before facing planning restrictions, said that "positive negotiations with Belfast City Council planning continue, and an opening date will be announced very shortly".

Yesterday's debt notice is one of a string of demands to hit hotel owner Lawrence Kenwright, the man at the helm of Signature Living.

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In recent weeks other creditors have been requesting the return of funds invested in the property as uncertainty surrounds the business.

A report by the BBC said that some international investors had flown to the UK to ask for their money back.

It said that investors in Signature Living were encouraged to buy individual rooms in its properties including the George Best Hotel, in return for a guaranteed return.

The notice on the George Best hotel in Belfast city centre
The notice on the George Best hotel in Belfast city centre

The BBC report added that several investors, from countries across Europe and Asia, were promised hundreds of thousands of pounds that were never given to them.

The spokesperson for Signature Living Group has since said it has contacted all investors "and provided a detailed update on the funding situation".

"Investors in the George Best Hotel have invested in a property asset, which by its nature is less liquid than other assets such as cash or equities, and so returns and redemptions are dependent upon completion of the development.

"In this specific case, we have faced well-documented delays in our redevelopment of the site caused by some unexpected issues resulting from local planning and building controls. This was disappointing but we are about to go before the Belfast Council planning committee for a revised consent which will allow us to finish the construction of this listed building and refinance the property.

"As co-investors in the George Best Hotel we are fully focused on completing the redevelopment of this iconic building in order to begin redeeming the investments in this scheme.

"We thank our investors for their support and patience and look forward to sharing with them a significant return on investment in the coming months."

Work stopped on the hotel last year because of a probe over concerns about "unauthorised works".

Mr Kenwright has spent £10.5m on the project so far.

He also had plans to convert two other prominent Belfast buildings into hotels but has since put them on the market.

The hotelier bought the Crumlin Road Courthouse building in 2017. Last month it was reported that he was on the verge of selling the War Memorial Building on Waring Street to property investment firm Wirefox for £3.7m.

Belfast Telegraph

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