Bed bugs and a rat in the kitchen - the Norfolk seaside hotel even the owner thinks is an 'eyesore'
PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:06 14 September 2019
In the last two years its guests have complained about bed bugs, smelly drains, dirty bathrooms, leaking roofs, and shabby decor.
The Sea Princess Hotel, on Great Yarmouth's North Drive, has been ordered not to use its lift, while its kitchen was shut down after a rat was found and fire safety concerns have been raised.
Today, the shocking catalogue of complaints about the hotel can be revealed, with the owner admitting the seafront building is an "eyesore" as he bids for permission to turn part of it into flats.
Twenty-three reports were made to environmental health officers at Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) between June 2017 and May 2019, a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper has found.
The dossier shows complaints included a build-up of rubbish in outside areas, general disrepair and "unhygienic" conditions, poor customer service and concerns over fire safety.
In some cases, the complaint was not upheld, or officers could find no evidence to prove the accusation.
In others, the owner was told to address the issue and follow-up visits showed improvements - from broken tiles to clogged drains.
The hotel's owner, Janak Masrani, said it had dealt with the issues and took customer complaints "very seriously".
On January 7, while investigating another complaint, an inspector saw a live rat run through the kitchen.
As a result, the kitchen was closed voluntarily by the hotel and it stopped serving food to guests.
Five more visits were made, pest control was increased, the floor was renewed and precautionary disinfectant undertaken. The kitchen was reopened on January 23 after it was agreed that a robust pest control programme was in place.
Two complaints about bedbugs were also made.
Mr Masrani said the bed bugs were brought in by guests, and that pest controllers had dealt with the problem in two rooms on April 15.
In February this year all hotel rooms were inspected in response to three complaints about the hotel being used as a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) for foreign guest workers.
The problems centred on rubbish build-up, cooking in rooms, food being stored by hanging outside windows and alleged anti-social behaviour.
As a result of that inspection, a notice was issued prohibiting the use of the passenger lift which carried a "risk of serious injury" because the owner did not have the paperwork to prove it had been inspected in the last six months.
The lift was closed for two days while the paperwork was provided to environmental services at GYBC.
Officers noted many of the complaints were around the poor quality of the rooms which was beyond their remit.
Responding to the reports, Mr Masrani said: "We are a very busy hotel and we are here to keep guests happy and to serve them at their pleasure.
"We have had no more then two or three minor complaints from guests, mostly regarding not enough parking available at the hotel or they were not given a sea view room although none was booked.
"We take all complaints very seriously and immediately deal with them to keep the guests happy."
Meanwhile plans have been lodged to turn one of the two buildings that make up the Sea Princess hotel into 10 flats - with the owner pointing to poor online reviews in a bid to prove his case.
In a design and access statement submitted as part of the planning application in July 2018 he states the hotel was running at a loss.
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The papers say: "With the amount of profits made it is impossible to cover any 'wear and tear' let alone any badly-needed renovations to keep in line as to what the tourists need and the expectations of Great Yarmouth council as decent accommodation.
"Please refer to the comments made on Trip Advisor and Bookings.com - The Sea Princess Hotel is badly in need of repair and renovations...
"The sales generated from the flats will enable us to invest in the main hotel and at 6-7 North Drive which will be brought in line to the expected standards required and expected by the tourists and the council.
"At the moment both buildings are an eyesore. The main car park opposite the hotel which is used by thousands of tourists every week creates shame and embarrassment to the quality of hotel in Great Yarmouth."
A stay at the Sea Princess
Our reporter Joe Norton spent a night at the Sea Princess Hotel and found a similar picture to that painted by TripAdvisor users.
While there were no bedbugs or offensive smell as reported elsewhere, he did find a number of issues at the budget hotel, which charged £40 for the night.
- A broken towel rail which fell to pieces when used
- Previous guests' hair spread over a stained bathroom floor
- A leftover pot of Vaseline left under the bed
- A door handle that fell off when used and had to be repaired
- Stale bread as part of the breakfast
- The television struggled to pick up signal and kept cutting in and out
What other businesses think
The owners of a nearby hotel said the Sea Princess was in a prime seafront location and should be graded by an independent body like the AA.
With the newly refurbished Waterways on its doorstep the hotel needed to raise its standards, but there would always be some who - attracted by the price - would take their chances and give it a go, they added.
Another operator said they knew of visitors who had turned up at the Sea Princess and decided they could not stay there, booking in to other nearby hotels instead.
A spokesman for Great Yarmouth's tourism BID (Business Improvement District) said: "We would encourage all businesses to achieve as high a standard as possible.
"Sea Princess are BID levy payers, GYBC Environmental Department are aware that there are issues with the accommodation and it is not listed on the Great Yarmouth Borough Council tourism website."