Torbay businessman Keith talks of hotels shutdown ‘sadness’

Torbay hotels owner Keith Richardson who has talked of his 'shutdown sadness'.

Torbay hotels owner Keith Richardson who has talked of his 'shutdown sadness'. - Credit: Archant

Hotels owner Keith Richardson reveals what life is like without his hotels due to the Coronavirus shutdown

Well-known businessman Keith Richardson has talked of his 'sadness' and 'distress' at seeing his hotel empire shut down.

But he says he is hoping to lead his business through the Coronavirus nightmare and have his hotel chain up and running again - and he reveals he has had to borrow £1million to pay towards staff wages and overheads.

His Richardson Hotels Group owns the four-star Grand and three-star Abbey Sands hotels in Torquay, the three-star Falmouth Hotel in Falmouth, and the three-star Royal Beacon Hotel in Exmouth. All were forced to lockdown in March.

He has stayed at home since and says: 'I am in self-isolation for 12 weeks to protect myself as I am in a high-risk category. At my age I am anxious not to catch the disease. If I were to die as a result of Covid-19 I am not sure who would guide my company over the next 12 difficult months while we return to normality. I am uniquely qualified to ensure that my company will survive through this epidemic.'

He added: 'I feel so sad speaking of my hotels during this crisis. They are all locked down along with the rest of the country.

'I am a small business owner having built up my modest collection of seaside hotels over the last 60 years and it is distressing that the whole edifice is now closed.'

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But Mr Richardson said he was pleased the government had come up with is furlough scheme where it pays 80 per cent of a worker's wage while they cannot work.

He says: 'It is a novel situation and a lifesaver for me as my monthly wage bill is of the order of £400,000. You can imagine if I was committed to pay this money with absolutely no sales income coming into my hotels for a couple of months - I would lose around £1 million out of my back pocket. 'Fortunately, the government is offering loans to businesses in my situation to see us through to better times. I have just borrowed £1 million personally to enable me to pay my staff wages and all my overheads.'

He added: 'Whilst I am extremely grateful for all the help offered to my staff by central government, I would like to mention that I receive no personal benefit from any government scheme currently in place for my hotels.

'I still have to pay substantial expenses to have my hotels mothballed and keep them secure with no help whatsoever. Additionally, on a personal note, I now have no income and no help with my own personal finances for food or living expenses. I was not even allowed to un-insure my car for three months in order to make a saving.'

Mr Richardson said: 'It's very sad to see my hotels unused and generally unloved. I have no cleaners going around polishing the brass notices and no gardeners cutting the grass to save money for when we come out of this pandemic.

'It's hard to imagine when the government are going to lift the lockdown restrictions. In my dining room, I can hardly serve meals without coming into close contact with my guests. I feel as though getting our business going again will be extraordinarily difficult for everybody.'

He praised his staff: 'They have been very supportive. I hope they are staying safe and well and I look forward to welcoming them all back soon.'

But he added: 'I am concerned with what follows on from this pandemic, with the possibility of much of our infrastructure bring lost. Our government is chucking money around in vast quantities. Will it be successful in its job? Or will many companies go under?

'My own company should be making profits now which I would use to fund our losses during next winter's low season and provide funds for refurbishment. Come Spring 2021 will we survive? I do hope so.'