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Failed Signature Living group behind Belfast George Best Hotel features in BBC series

Filmed before company went bust

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Hotelier Lawrence Kenwright with his wife Katie

Hotelier Lawrence Kenwright with his wife Katie

BBC/Spun Gold TV/Diane Thompson

Hotelier Lawrence Kenwright with his wife Katie

The company behind the George Best Hotel is featuring in a documentary on BBC1 despite grave financial troubles and investors in the Belfast venue being left out of pocket.

The first episode of four-parter The Grand Party Hotel featuring staff and guests at the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool aired this evening.

A synopsis said: "We meet staff and guests behind the scenes at Liverpool's craziest hotel. It has party suites for up to 24 people in one room, but can the staff cope with the unusual demands?"

Since 12 months of filming from October 2018, the hotels owned by Liverpool-based Signature Living have gone into administration, including the Shankly. Bedford Hotel Ltd, the entity behind George Best Hotel, owed £15m when it went bust early this year.

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The planned city centre George Best hotel lies in disrepair

The planned city centre George Best hotel lies in disrepair

The planned city centre George Best hotel lies in disrepair

The historic Scottish Mutual Building at Donegall Square where the George Best Hotel was to open in December 2018 is in a derelict state, with scaffolding and a rubbish chute still in place.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "The Grand Party Hotel is an observational series that takes viewers behind the scenes of the Shankly Hotel in Liverpool.

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"It was filmed before the hotel went into administration. As an observational documentary it does not set out to explore the business model of the hotel or wider hotel group but rather to tell the story of staff and guests."

It said that a note on screens would explain that the series was filmed before the pandemic but would not refer to the financial issues.

But SDLP South Belfast MLA Matthew O'Toole said: "The George Best Hotel is just a few hundred yards from another site on the southern side of Belfast city centre that was due to receive investment that probably isn't going to happen: BBC Broadcasting House.

"It would be disappointing if this documentary offered free publicity to Signature Living while one of Belfast's landmark properties, the Scottish Mutual Building, lies undeveloped and millions is owed to creditors and suppliers."

Meanwhile, hotelier Lawrence Kenwright of the Signature Group has confirmed the launch of a new hotel and leisure company, UK Accommodation Group Ltd.

Chairman Thomas Scullion, an investor in Signature Living, said that the UK Accommodation Group's mission is "to create a 'bucket list' experience which separates it from all other hotels".

Mr Kenwright said he's now working on a proposal to present to administrators with the aim of regaining control of the Shankly Hotel "alongside completing four further hotels under the Signature banner".

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The planned city centre George Best hotel lies in disrepair

The planned city centre George Best hotel lies in disrepair

The planned city centre George Best hotel lies in disrepair

Belfast City Council confirmed that its Building Control Service had inspected the building on September 9 but that no enforcement action could be taken. But it said it was working with the Linen Quarter Business Improvement District and the administrator to address the condition of the building, including the graffiti.

Investors have paid a total of £4m to own 59 rooms in the George Best Hotel.

And couples dreaming of marrying in a venue honouring the late footballer's memory have also paid large deposits.

Signature Living planned to turn the former War Memorial Building on Belfast's Waring St into a party hotel like the Shankly.

But that project did not progress, so the building is on the market - along with Belfast's Crumlin Road Courthouse, which Signature Living also bought with a view to turning into a hotel.


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