Hotel in historic Coal Exchange shuts down amid further concerns for the building’s future
A hotel based in one of Wales’ most iconic buildings has shut down amid further confusion about its future.
The Cardiff Coal Exchange Hotel, in the Butetown district of the city, has been in crisis for months, and on December 27 its freehold owners took possession of it from the leaseholder after fire inspectors served a prohibition notice on the building, part of which has been declared unsafe.
An operating company called Coal Exchange Operations LLP (Limited Liability Partnership), owned by Eastbourne businessman Anil Rai, has been running the hotel on a week-by-week basis since the freeholder – a firm called Eden Grove Developments, owned by former Cardiff councillor Ashley Govier – repossessed the building.
Two apparently contradictory press statements have been issued. One, from the LLP, said: “Today Wednesday 17 January Coal Exchange Operations LLP has withdrawn from its existing relationship with Eden Grove Developments Limited. The Cardiff Coal Exchange Hotel has now ceased operating.
A spokesperson for the operator said: “It is with considerable regret that we have reached this point. This is something that could have been avoided. We have worked tirelessly to reach an agreement with freeholder Eden Grove Developments Limited who took possession of the hotel on December 27, 2023. But it has become apparent over the last two weeks they were not willing to work with us to secure the future of the business.
“Our immediate concern is for the staff whose jobs have been affected, and with customers who have outstanding bookings. We will do everything in our power to assist both. Due to ongoing legal action involving Eden Grove Developments Limited and other vested parties, our ability to comment is limited.
“However, it has become clear in recent weeks that Eden Grove Developments does not have its interests aligned with the existing operating business and has imposed restrictions resulting in a huge drop in revenue. This has made it impossible to operate the hotel as a viable concern.
“We have repeatedly asked them to urgently invest the necessary funds to make up for the drop in revenue and to ensure the hotels immediate future, but Eden Grove Developments have made it clear no funds will be made available.
“It is hugely frustrating that they have chosen a path which can only lead to huge disappointment and disruption for staff and customers. The investors have already invested significant funds in their vision for the future of the business and extensive redevelopment of the property.
“It remains our hope the legal ownership of the hotel can be sorted out as soon as possible allowing the hotel to reopen, and investors are able to commence with refurbishment plans creating a venue that will attract visitors from all over the world to Wales.”
Hours earlier, a statement was issued by civil engineers Mann Williams which said: “The Coal Exchange building can be saved, with concerted and collaborative efforts from all interested parties. Historic and ongoing disputes and consequential inaction have been fundamental to the building’s deterioration, which could have potentially catastrophic outcomes if the building is allowed to continue to deteriorate beyond the point of repair.
“Mann Williams (Cardiff) Ltd Consulting Civil and Structural Engineers, have represented the interests of the Coal Exchange for many years. Over this period, we have developed a thorough knowledge and structural understanding of the building, always working with the objective of saving the Coal Exchange and preserving the history and societal value embedded in the building’s fabric, often in opposition to other parties.
“Mann Williams have been appointed by Coal Exchange Hotel LLP, the current leasehold operators, to develop and implement a scheme of urgent stabilisation works to the north elevation of the Coal Exchange, the principal focus of which is to safely retain as much historic fabric as possible. Despite appearances, Mann Williams consider the structure of the Coal Exchange building to be inherently robust and entirely suitable for retention, conservation, and incorporation into a regeneration project.
“Unfortunately, due to the historic neglect and the need to safely undertake the urgent works, some fabric will inevitably be lost, such as decayed timber lintels. However, the majority of the structure can, and should, be retained. Failure to proceed with stabilisation works to the north elevation in a timely manner will risk further significant loss of historic fabric.
“The significance of the Coal Exchange in Wales’ industrial heritage and culture cannot be overstated, and retention, conservation and reinvigoration of the building should be the primary objective.”
Mr Govier said: “We already know from previous reports in Nation.Cymru that the leaseholder owes a great deal of money to creditors including HMRC. We also know that rooms owned by individual investors were being let out by the leaseholder without the permission of the owners, who were not getting any revenue.
“We have our own engineers who will be looking at the structure of the building. The first priority has to be to make the building safe.
“I have no knowledge of the Mann Williams report – it hasn’t been shared with us.”
Later Mr Govier issued a statement which said: “Based on the information we have obtained over the last two weeks, [the closure of the hotel] hasn’t really surprised us, which is why we were confused by the statement released by the operator last week assuring customers that future bookings were secure.
“We are now supporting staff and guests as we try to establish who the administrators are so we can begin active discussions to minimise disruption. The intended release this week of plans for the development of the site will now be postponed by a week while we deal with this, but we will shortly be announcing our development team.
“We will be meeting with staff and will release a further statement subsequent to that.”
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