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Potential lifeline for Lansdowne staff after takeover

A hotel in north Belfast which was shut down at short notice has been bought by an English budget chain opening here for the first time.

Metro Inns, based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, confirmed they paid up to £700,000 for the 25-bedroomed Lansdowne Hotel on Antrim Road.

Bank of Scotland appointed Deloitte as administrative receivers to the chain Welcome Hotels, the former owners of the hotel, in May.

Managing director Pat Doherty said it had already heard from suppliers and former staff asking if their relationship with the hotel would be resumed.

One insolvency expert said TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations may apply to the transaction, obliging the new owners to keep around 30 staff who lost their jobs when the hotel shut in May.

Metro Inns has eight budget hotels around the UK. A sister company also owns the Knockan Lodge care home in Ballymoney.

Mr Doherty said a clean-up and redecoration of the Lansdowne would continue until the end of this month with a re-opening planned for soon after.

“The Lansdowne is a very well-known hotel and we normally operate on the budget side of things. The Lansdowne is a 25-room hotel and we would foresee charging around £45 per night per room,’’ he said.

Mr Doherty said the Lansdowne name would be kept.

Conor Devine, principal of GDP Property Partnership, which advised Metro Inns on the purchase, said: “This is a good news story as it shows confidence in Northern Ireland tourism and in the hotel market here.”

It’s understood Metro Inns submitted the highest bid out of 10 bidders who were vying for the property.

Matthew Williamson, director at accountants ASM, said: “It’s been quite a while since we have had a new entrant come in and acquire an existing property — the last was possibly the acquisition of McCausland Hotel by Malmaison in 2004.”

He said the £700,000 price tag was “reasonably good value” for a budget hotel of its size.

Mr Williamson said the city’s hotels enjoyed occupancy rates of 84% between April and June this year.

“If that dynamic continues I think Metro Inns have a good chance of doing quite well in the Lansdowne.”

Belfast Telegraph