THE RIDGEPOOL Hotel in Ballina is to re-open its doors next week.
Just short of two months since its closure, and the controversy surrounding its mooted use as an asylum hostel, the town centre premises will re-launch as a hotel next Monday, June 9.
The Mayo News has learned that a number of local investors are behind the re-opening but wish to remain ‘silent partners’ in the deal. At least three parties are believed to be bank-rolling the development, citing their involvement as in the best interests of reviving the town centre.
General Manager, Ronald Marks, is the public face of the business consortium and will now head up the project to revive and re-brand the riverside property. Redevelopment works commenced late last week.
“I am delighted to be here. I love this building and this location and really think it has terrific potential. I am thrilled we reached an agreement to allow me to take it over and I want to use this opportunity wisely. The town really needs this industry and I was glad to take it off the owner’s hands,” he said.
The Dunne Group (DG) resorted to a lease agreement after the €10 million price tag could not be raised by a number of interested syndicates.
The hotel will now be leased by the group for the next 12 months, with a sub-letting arrangement for the restaurant and bar. The initial lease has been taken with a view to a five-year plan.
A native of England, Mr Marks has spent the last five years in Ireland working in various hotels in Dublin and Leitrim. Most recently he has worked in Enniscrone hotels, The Ocean Sands and Diamond Coast, and has been residing in the seaside town for almost 18 months.
“I have worked in the hotel industry all my life really, with 30-odd years of management behind me so I can see the promise in Ballina but I know work has to be done here before we reopen.”
The prospect of employment, following the loss of 45 jobs at the Barrett Street property, has created a buzz of excitement around the town. With a queue of people looking to gain employment outside the hotel on Friday morning last, Mr Marks confirmed that former workers will be re-employed where possible.
Former employee David McDonnell said he was delighted to be back working at the town centre base. “The support from the entire town in amazing; it is great to see such a brilliant response to this. It really is a very positive thing for Ballina.”
With an advertising campaign already running in national newspapers, Ronald Marks said he is concentrating his efforts on providing ‘a good family base with fine food, and, eventually, reopening the leisure centre along the same lines of quality’.
THE GUTTING of the Ridgepool Hotel commenced last week when a major redecoration project swung into action.
One worker told The Mayo News: “We are working against the clock to get this place open in time.”
It took over 64 hours of team labour to completely overhaul the kitchen and bring it up to health and safety standards, while a total of 40 bags of rubbish were discarded as a result of that clean-up alone.
The 70 bedrooms, along with conference rooms, function areas, bar and foyer, are all set to undergo a complete refurbishment in a bid to return the town centre hotel to its original grandeur of the mid-1990s.
With no telephone or accommodation system in place since the hotel was ravaged prior to closing almost two months ago, Ronald Marks agreed there are ‘a lot of unforeseeable expenses’ involved in the take-over.
However, a positive Mr Marks said he has high hopes that the hotel will return to its position as a tourism magnet in north Mayo.
He said he is working closely with the Chamber of Commerce in exploiting the Salmon Capital of Ireland status Ballina holds for 2008 and working within the best business strategies for the greater north Mayo area.
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