Bill Wolsey, the new owner of the iconic Park Avenue hotel in east Belfast, has told LCN that he hopes to be able to give an indication of his plans for the venue early in the New Year.
Mr Wolsey, whose Beannchor Group acquired the troubled business at the end of August, is expected to invest heavily in the family-owned property, which has been trading under a Company Voluntary Arrangement since October 2016.
‘The situation is that we have acquired the hotel and are now getting to grips with the business,’ he told LCN on Monday, adding that he hoped to be able to reveal more details about his development plans ‘possibly after Christmas’.
Built in the early 60s, the 56-bedroom property has been a major part of the thriving east Belfast community in which it sits for many years. It was, perhaps, the province’s first bespoke hotel, created in an era when most of its contemporaries were still located in what were once residential dwellings.
A new and refurbished Park Avenue was opened in 1967 following a devastating fire three years before and at that stage, only three of its bedrooms offered en suite facilities.
Various extensions and refurbishments have taken place over the years. In the early 90s, around £10m was invested, creating a more compact and luxurious venue and, about 19 years ago, a major refurbishment saw all the rooms finally converted to en suite. That created a need for additional space which saw the tally of rooms at the Park Avenue drop from 76 to its current 56.
Conference facilities and a new, modern frontage were added about nine years ago and the bedrooms, bathrooms, bar and restaurant were all upgraded allowing the hotel to shift to four-star status.
Twelve new jobs were created at the hotel four years ago when critically-acclaimed chef and restaurateur, Marco Pierre White chose the Park Avenue to host the first of his steakhouse and grill outlets in Northern Ireland.
It is no secret, however, that the hotel has been struggling financially in recent years. When it entered the CVA in 2016, it had liabilities of around £600,000, including a debt of 425,000 to its biggest creditor, HMRC.
Hopes will be high that under Beannchor – NI’s largest hospitality group – this long-standing and popular community hotel can look forward to a renaissance in its fortunes going forward.