Time to walk? You must be joking, says fighter Keith - I'm having too much fun

Torbay Weekly

Keith Richardson has been knocked down more times than a skittle during a game of bowling.

But just like a hardened fighter who doesn’t know the meaning of quitting, he just keeps bouncing back.

He has taken many a hefty blow especially in the past few years.

One of the biggest punches was a run-in with the tax man – that is a fight he was never going to win– three years ago over a £600,00 VAT bill.

The unthinkable happened when his Richardson Hotels empire was forced into administration.

The future of his beloved 132-bed Grand Hotel on Torquay seafront and his other hotels - the Falmouth in Falmouth, Metropole in Padstow, the Royal Beacon in Exmouth and the Fowey in Fowey - was in doubt.

So, too, was his Abbey Sands in Torquay after a disastrous business venture with celeb chef John Burton-Race.

But Mr Richardson refused to lay down and die. He ended up selling the Metropole and Fowey hotels.

But suddenly he was back in control of his debt-free empire and back on his feet.

Then bang! In came a right hook which had him back on the canvass facing the count. His opponent? Covid.

Like the rest of the Bay’s hospitality and tourism industry, Mr Richardson’s hotels were left in darkness.

But this time it was the Government’s furlough scheme which helped to pay his staff, that helped him back on his feet again.

He hasn’t looked back since the industry was re-opened and staycation signalled boom time for tourism.

But Mr Richardson doesn’t believe in resting on his laurels after his latest scrap for survival.

He has gone on the front foot and delivered a positive knockout blow of his own to open up a new future with investment and expansion plans running into millions of pounds.

News broke recently that he had bought the landmark Municipal Chambers building at the top end of Castle Circus for £210,000 in an online auction.

He confirmed: “We are going to make it into flats. It had planning permission for 12 flats in 2007. It has lapsed. We are going to apply again. We may be looking at between 10 and 12.

“It is a beautiful building. The staircase is fantastic. It is Victorian. We are going to make it beautiful.”

Then he throws into the conversation that he has also just purchased the former magistrates' court at the top end of Torquay town centre for £450,000 and plans to also convert the building into possibly 14 residential flats.

He isn’t stopping there either. He has also revealed massive plans for The Grand.

He says: “We are in discussion with the town hall planners about a flats development at the current garage site at the side of the hotel.

“We are also going to build a fifth floor at The Grand. That could accommodate 15 apartments. We are in talks with the planners. We had permission for the fifth floor scheme in 2007 and made a start.

"We can start that as early as the autumn. We have architects working up the plans we have.

“We are also looking at plans for a restaurant on a sixth floor.”

Wow, wow, wow!

All this fits into the millions of pounds being invested in the Bay at the moment, especially in the hotels sector.

The Fragrance Group, Powis Hotels, Lincombe Hall and the Hilton are just a few to mention.

Mr Richardson, who singled out the improvements at the former Cavendish Hotel in Belgrave Road for particular praise, is let’s say plain-speaking and says: “You have to beat all these other b...s."

He adds: "There is an awful lot of money being spent. We have to keep up with each other.”

He has been in Torbay for 20 years and says: “I am hoping the Bay is moving in the right direction.”

He is pleased with the way things are going at the moment.

He says: “We are doing lovely at the moment. We are recovering very well. Business is great. Business and staycation has gone mental.

“We have lovely customers visiting us at the moment. We have to look after these new customers to make sure we keep them. It is not a big ask. We have to make it nice for people.”

He now has another goal in mind. He says: “I am trying to get my eyes fixed so I can get my helicopter licence back!”

There really is no holding this man back.

Now around the 80 mark, he admits: “I could easily walk away. But I am still having fun.”

And soon flying high no doubt!