What's going on at Great Yarmouth's boarded up Star Hotel?
- Credit: Liz Coates
Lost deposits, guests travelling hundreds of miles to find the hotel shut, promises of re-opening, and a boarded up front door - just what is happening at Great Yarmouth's landmark Star Hotel?
How long has the Star Hotel been shut?
The Grade II listed hotel in Hall Quay had benefited from a six figure refurbishment in 2017 and seemed to be enjoying a renaissance.
It closed along with all other hospitality at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, but has not re-opened since, sparking concerns for its future.
In September 2020, this newspaper made inquiries and a booking agency that handles its reservations said staff had been told it would re-open at the beginning of October, although it never did.
Social media posts earlier this year indicated it would open in June, but there has been no activity and the phone line is dead.
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Who owns the Star Hotel?
A land registry search has revealed the hotel changed hands on January 14, 2020 for £700,000.
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The Cheshire-based owner - The Star GY Ltd - has also been the premises licence holder since February 2020.
The company was set up the year before, in July, with a registered address at 77a King Street, Knutsford, Cheshire. The director is listed as Michael James McMahon.
It also shows five of the rooms are leased out to private owners, although it is possible more were sold but not registered.
Who has been affected?
Among those looking for answers is Jamie Dallas from Gorleston.
The 32-year-old is owed hundreds by the Star Hotel having booked his wedding reception there for January 2022 and is frustrated that he has now had to hold the celebrations for his big day at another venue with no idea of how or whether he will get his money back.
Mr Dallas was due to marry Emma Dyble on April 8, 2021, but had to put it back to January next year due to coronavirus.
He paid a deposit in around February 2020 for a room hire and DJ for the couple's 80 guests, and had been paying monthly instalments since.
The person he was dealing with said she was leaving her role in February and gave a name for a new contact. They contacted Mr Dallas about the outstanding balance once, but he has heard nothing since.
"I really do not know where to go and what to do," he said.
"I am not going to get my money back because I cannot get hold of anyone to refund me.
"About four weeks ago I tried ringing for a week. One day a lady answered and said she was the new owner and that the wedding was not going ahead.
"I found it all very strange."
What about people who have booked hotel stays?
People from all over the country that have booked breaks at the hotel are arriving to find it shuttered.
Several have taken to Tripadvisor to warn others, and there have been reports of guests arriving most days.
One person writing on the review site in June said: "We were due to stay here in June but have cancelled after reading the reviews that it is closed.
"We tried contacting them via email but had no response. We had booked on booking.com so we also tried to contact them via booking.com, again no response.
"The phone numbers listed online for the hotel don’t connect either."
Another person said they travelled for three hours to find the hotel shut, spending another two looking for somewhere else to stay.
The hotel is no longer listed on booking.com. The company would not say how many people were due to stay there in the next few months.
A statement said: "In the rare instance that a property cannot accommodate a booking, our customer service team is available 24/7 to help refund or relocate guests to an alternative property of equal or better quality, as smoothly and quickly as possible, which could also mean covering the difference in cost."
This newspaper is also aware of people wanting their money back for overnight stays they have not been able to take, and of those with gift vouchers.
What about the investment scheme?
A firm advertising the investment said its owners Merydion had decided to sell their individual hotel rooms to raise the capital required to fund a further refurbishment of the hotel as well as expand their portfolio of hotels in the future.
Five rooms are registered to private owners spanning the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and Turkey.
Another Merydion hotel, Durker Roods Country House Hotel, near Huddersfield, gives its correspondence address as 24 Hall Quay and has also failed to re-open.
What has the Star Hotel said?
The hotel updated its social media account in April 2021 saying: "We would like to reassure everyone that we will be re-opening our doors in June."
It asked anyone with wedding related enquires to email Sam@Bigdaywedding.co.uk.
There have been no further postings since April 19 and the account has been deleted.
In April the hotel responded to this newspaper saying the rooms, restaurant, and bar would be opening in June.
At the time their spokesman said she was busy contacting their wedding bookings and would speak "in a couple of weeks."
Since then, there has been no further contact or signs of activity at the hotel.
'A real shame'
Council leader Carl Smith said it was a real shame the hotel - a stone's throw from the imposing Town Hall - had not re-opened.
A popular spot with members after meetings, he said it was much missed.
"As far as I know all our hotels are really busy and getting ready for a bumper summer, so now would really be the time to be open," he said.
"It is sad to see an iconic building like that boarded up. Hopefully it will reopen soon."
Have you been affected?
Trading Standards advise anyone struggling to get a refund to contact Citizens Advice.
In terms of the most up to date advice on this issue, the Competitions and Marketing Authority(CMA) put out some guidance last year on consumer contracts and refunds in light of the pandemic and lockdowns which can be accessed via the Gov.uk website.
Attempts have been made to contact The Star Hotel. It's social media accounts have been deleted and its telephone line is dead.
Have you been affected? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.