THE Portland Arms Hotel in Lybster is due to reopen in the summer after being bought by a brother and sister from Greenock.
Steven and Sharn Swan purchased the property from former owner Oxford Inns and are carrying out renovation work before opening for business.
“We are delighted to have bought the hotel and plan to have it open again later in the summer,” said Mr Swan, who revealed that the hotel needed more work than was initially anticipated.
“It has been closed for about 16 months and was in pretty bad shape,” he said. “We are going to have to spend around £150,000 over the next two years to renovate it.
“We thought the figure would be between £50,000 and £60,000.
“We are carrying out work inside the hotel and getting it repainted outside and cutting back on the overgrowth. The reaction locally has been positive and people are saying it is great to see the hotel coming back to life.
Mr Swan (46) explained that the work will be carried out in phases and they plan to have the bar, restaurant and around 12 of the 22 rooms open by the summer. It is expected that around 12 people will be employed on a full-time and part-time basis at the hotel.
Longer term, he plans to expand the business to include small self-catering units and caravan points. “We want to try and help develop Lybster,” Mr Swan said.” What is good for the village will be good for us. We want to give people a good reason to come to Lybster.”
He and his sister have been working together in the hotel trade since 2008 and previously ran the Baltasound on Unst in Shetland. It is known as Britain’s most northerly hotel.
They turned it into a successful business but sold it in 2016 as they thought after eight years it was time to move on. They have spent the past two years looking for another hotel and have now bought the Portland.
Although they are having to undertake more work than they thought, they are pleased with their purchase. “It has worked out well for us,” said Mr Swan, who has been involved in the hotel business since 1999 when he bought his first hotel in the West Midlands.
Sharn (48) was in the hospitality business before linking up with her brother 10 years ago to move into the hotel trade.
The Portland Arms is one of the county’s longest established hotels but has been closed for lengthy periods in recent times.
It was last run by Kevin and Julia Ellis for less than 12 months after being empty for about three years but it closed again at the beginning of 2017.
The couple hoped to re-establish the hotel as a popular venue for weddings and community events.
Before the hotel closed down in 2013, the Portland Arms went through four different owners in a period of 24 months.
Previous owners blamed the cost of business rates for helping to make the hotel unprofitable.