Belfast Telegraph

Glass firm breaks into hotels with £750k deal

By Margaret Canning

A glass and PVC company in Co Antrim has defied the recession by branching into an entirely new sector — hotels.

Camden Group snapped up the landmark O’Neill Arms Hotel in Toome at auction for £750,000.

The hotel had been vacant and boarded up since January after Tom Keenan was appointed official receiver by a bank.

Camden Group stepped in to buy the hotel at an auction run by commercial property agents Osborne King, appointed by Tom Keenan.

Kieran Lavery, managing director of Camden Group, said: “The hospitality industry has seen some tough times recently, and a lot of companies are still hunkered down, waiting for the storm to pass.

“This is an opportunity for us to reassert ourselves and aggressively|pursue opportunities for growth. We’re setting ourselves up to accelerate growth of the company. The hotel is a fabulous property and a great addition to our portfolio of companies.

“We are excited about the potential we see in the market. Our first |priority is to restore the confidence of our employees and clients to ensure this hotel has a long, bright future for all.”

John Martin, commercial property agent at Osborne King, said the successful auction of the O’Neill Arms “holds out a bit of hope for the future”.

Sean Murray, a consultant in the hospitality industry who had advised Camden Group on the purchase, said that the group would return the hotel to its former glory.

Despite the company’s lack of hospitality experience, he said they were determined “to do the right thing with the hotel, with the right people doing the right things”.

“It has all happened very quickly and they are hoping to open it at the start of December — that is just a five week turnaround from purchasing it to opening day. In total, they hope to employ between 30 and 45 people, both full-time and part-time.”

The hotel’s Arby’s nightclub was a popular draw in the south Derry area. The three star hotel also has 11 bedrooms, a function room for up to 200 people, a ballroom with room for seated lunches, a restaurant with room for up to 70 diners and a bar holding up to 50 people.

Mr Murray said: “Like ever business they have weighed up the risks and concerns but they felt it was a good investment for the future and would bring good jobs to the local area. |They want to do it right with a good quality product which the area can be proud of.”

It is understood the hotel will be completely rebranded and relaunched, thought the exact nature of the new branding is a closely guarded secret.

However, the outlets inside the hotel are expected to share a distinct local theme.

Mr Murray said: “What they have done is extremely exciting, especially in today’s market.

“If as a company you have the resources and the capacity, this is a good time to buy.”

The hotel was part of the McLarnon Group, which folded last year. Its Adair Arms in Ballymena was bought by the McKeever Group and the Leighinmor in Ballymena by Beannchor.

The Fort Royal Inn in Glarryford outside the town is still on the market through O’Connor Kennedy and Turtle agents.

Belfast Telegraph