The Grand (3/7)

Five’s documentary series examining failing hotels in the UK takes another look at one of the establishments that featured in an earlier episode.

Following on from the first visit of hotelier and author Ruth Watson, this week’s show sees the cameras return to the Grand Hotel on the East Sussex coast to see if owner Peter Mann has made the changes necessary to save his establishment from ruin.

When Ruth first visited the 17-room Grand Hotel on the Hastings seafront, it was rapidly losing business to the newer budget hotels elsewhere in the town. Owner Peter Mann, who had been running the hotel for 18 years, was keen to reverse his fortunes, but was wary of Ruth’s infamous no-nonsense approach even before her arrival. “If she’s going to come here a cross between Darth Vader, Genghis Khan and Gordon Ramsay,” he warned, “then that’s not going to work at all!”

Unfortunately for Peter, his worst fears were confirmed when he met Ruth, who was deeply unimpressed by the hotel from the outset. “It’s anything but grand,” she grumbled as she laid eyes on the listless and jaded frontage, complete with peeling paintwork, rusting pipes and dead plants in the windows. The reception area was bizarrely situated up a flight of stairs and, inexplicably, guests were required to ring two bells simultaneously to get Peter’s attention. The lounge area was dominated by tatty paisley sofas, and the bedrooms were spartan, incongruous and grubby. Peter’s reaction to Ruth’s early comments was one of hostility: “I think she’s cold – she uses bad language,” he said. “I don’t like the lady at all.”

After what she described as “an uncomfortable night’s sleep” on a tired mattress, Ruth made her way to the dining room – where she was to experience another shock. The room was stuffed with ornaments, toys and curios from Peter’s travels around the world. Cuddly monkeys jostled for space with Buddhist carvings and china dolls, and there was not a surface visible anywhere in the room. “There is some truly hideous rubbish down here,” said Ruth. “It’s really quite freaky.”

With a monumental task ahead of her, Ruth started by sending Peter off to a local budget hotel to see how the service and amenities compared with the Grand. She then gave him a checklist of things to do to improve the hotel, including clearing the clutter from the dining room, buying matching towels for the bedrooms and, most importantly, redecorating the hotel’s frontage. After his initial misgivings, Peter slowly warmed to Ruth and began to value her advice: “We need to put the ‘grand’ back into the Grand Hotel, as Ruth puts it,” he said.

Ruth then inspired Peter to retain the hotel’s character by transforming the dining room into a quasi-museum of Hastings. To celebrate the Grand’s new look, the pair decided to throw a relaunch party and invite the town’s mayor. But before the party could begin, Peter had a great deal of work to do to make the venue ready.

Now that the party has finished and the Grand’s moment in the spotlight is over, the Hotel Inspector returns to Hastings to see how the business is faring. Has Peter finally embraced the need for change? Will the hotel’s interior be free from touristy tat? And will Peter have managed to put the ‘grand’ back into his establishment?

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