The Isle of Wight Council is investigating a number of potential offences at a Shanklin hotel, after the general manager quit in disgust after just two days in the post.
The Melbourne Ardenlea Hotel, on Queens Road, was closed with immediate effect last month after health and safety concerns led to prohibition orders served by council staff. The hotel was able to open again last week after proof was shown that urgent electrical and gas work had been completed.
However, a hotel manager with 32 years’ experience, left after just two days, saying that conditions were “so dreadful they were beyond belief”.
Francis Wilson was offered the £32,000-a-year general manager role by Rashid Hussein, who told him he owned the hotel. However, Mr Hussein resigned as a director from Parker Hospitality Ltd, the company that owns the hotel, in May, and the employment paperwork (which the IW Observer has seen) came from Nasir Umer, a Pakistani, who describes himself as director/HR Manager.
It was obvious to Mr Wilson as soon as he arrived that things were not right, but he told us that, as the extent of the filth, squalor and casual attitude to guest safety unfolded, he could take no more; he walked out on Sunday (August 8) and returned home to Worcester.
His plan was to put the whole experience behind him, but nagging concerns for the safety of customers and staff led him to contact the police. When they said they could do nothing, he contacted the IW Observer. He provided us with a series of shocking photographs, showing decay, delapidation, and dirt, but Mr Wilson’s description of his short time at the Melbourne Ardenlea is perhaps even more worrying.
Mr Wilson told us that carpets were ‘alive with insects’, some rooms had no running water or electricity, fridges storing food were not working and drugs openly used by some staff. In the two days he was at the hotel eleven guests walked out, and when he took money from the hospital float to refund one group, Mr Rashid “went completely crazy”, saying it was against policy to refund guests under any circumstances.
Two IW Observer staff visited the hotel on Wednesday evening and met Malik, who was friendly and polite and told us he had been the manager “for a long time”. We asked to look around the hotel, but were told the kitchens, bar and restaurant were closed for refurbishment, the pool was closed and we could not see bedrooms because the hotel was full. He admitted there had been some problems but claimed they had been dealt with. He blamed Booking.com for failures to refund people, a claim we later found out was untrue.
As we left, we met a couple with their son who warned us not to stay in the hotel. “Just one word,” they said. “Don’t.” They described their stay as a “nightmare”, but they were trying to make the best of it. They confirmed much of what we had been told by Mr Wilson was true, saying that, in the last couple of days, 10 people had left in disgust. They had attempted to find somewhere else to stay themselves, but without success.
Four more holidaymakers arrived, and also corroborated Mr Wilson’s claims of dirt and squalor, confirming that the toilet in one room didn’t flush – not least because most of it was in their bathtub, showing us pictures to back up what they said. Another told us there was no electric light in their room, bedrooms were filthy and full of rubbish and many upstairs corridors had no carpet.
All six of the holidaymakers praised the staff who were “doing their very best in an impossible situation.”
Mr Wilson told the IW Observer: “I couldn’t be a part of it, but equally I couldn’t just walk away because I genuinely fear for the safety of people that are there. I was frightened that I would read that some tragedy had happened. It just isn’t safe. I’m so glad the IW Observer took this seriously. I hope the authorities will now do something, and do it quickly.”
Numerous recent reviews on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Google also complain about the hotel.
The IW Observer tried to contact the two directors of the company but, although a mobile telephone number for John Horvath, it went unanswered with no facility to leave a message. Neither Mr Horvarth or Umer Nasir responded to a message left with their accountant by the time we went to press.
The IW Observer passed all the evidence we had been given to the Isle of Wight Council and put them in touch with Mr Wilson. A spokesman said: