A Donside restaurateur has warned that the shock closure of a well-known hotel should be a wake-up call to all local businesses.
Darren Gimber, proprietor and chef of the Kildrummy Inn, spoke out following news this week that nearby Kildrummy Castle Hotel had closed its doors.
“This is a wake-up call to other businesses in the area,” said Mr Gimber. “Trading conditions have been very hard over the past 18 months or so, especially with the terrible weather in the run up to last Christmas.
“We know it cost us a lot in loss revenue and some businesses, tens of thousands. Everybody is well aware that people do not have as much disposable income. The economic climate is, quite frankly, a farce. Going out for meals and to the pub has become more of a luxury.”
The 16-bedroom Kildrummy Castle Hotel, which overlooks the ruins of the original 13th centure castle, closed its doors after the operators running it went into liquidation, with 15 people reportedly losing their jobs.
Frans and Jayne Faber - under the name Caioni Ltd - took on the business in 2008 but recently decided they were unable to continue with the venture. They are understood to have leased the hotel from Kildrummy Jersey Ltd and last week, the Fabers applied to the courts to go into voluntary liquidation, which a sheriff approved on Friday.
Mr Gimber said on hearing the news, many people had mistakenly assumed it was the Kildrummy Inn which had closed.
“We would like to reassure our customers and friends that the Kildrummy Inn is alive and kicking,” he said. “We have had several e-mails, questions via our Facebook page and many, many phone calls - one from Lincolnshire, as well as one from a local councillor over the past weekend - asking us what was going on and how sad people are to hear of our closure.
“Only last night we received an e-mail from a fellow proprietor stating how sad it was to hear of our situation. There is no situation with us. The Kildrummy Inn shares no connection with the Kildrummy Castle Hotel.
“We have just published our festive season menus, as well as having a good summer of trade. We have just spent a lot of money completely refurbishing our porch dining area - not something you would do if you were experiencing difficulties.
“Sylvia and I are both very happy running the Kildrummy Inn. We have now been here for 7½ years and long may it continue.
“Out of respect to the Fabers, who had been running Kildrummy Castle Hotel and Kildrummy Jersey, who the Fabers leased the hotel from, we have simply advised people that it was not us that had closed and gone into administration and made no comment.”
But he said hoteliers faced a difficult time in the current financial climate.
“Many are not aware just what small businesses are up against,” he said. “All people see is the price of a dish on the menu.”
“They don’t realise that in the price, not only are there escalating food and energy prices included, but wages, cleaning chemicals, rent, insurance, rates, accountancy and the ridiculous amount of extra licence fees that are required to keep the doors open. Coupled with that are the VAT hike and now fuel surcharges that some suppliers see fit to slap on us, as we are in rural areas! “For example, it costs us around a £1,000 a year just to have background music in the Kildrummy Inn, due to various music licenses we are required to have. Somewhere in the equation we need to make a bit of money too.
“You only have to look around Alford and the surrounding areas at the amount of vacant business premises - it’s not a good situation and is not helped by the farcical business rates that business owners are up in arms about across the city and Shire.
“Businesses need the support of the local community now more than ever, especially over the quieter winter months, otherwise headlines like the one of Kildrummy Castle Hotel, will be in the newspapers on a weekly basis.”