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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Kirkwhelpington: Express makeover provides new lease of life for hotel

STARTING from scratch, the new owner of a Redesdale hotel has transformed the fortunes of the ailing building.

With the former Knowesgate Hotel, near Kirkwhelpington, falling into disrepair, North-East businessman Jaz Sarwar and his team have poured blood, sweat and tears into it for the past 12 months.

And they have produced a hotel the community can be proud of. The new look Countryside Express Hotel has already proved to be a big hit with locals and visitors since its opening.

The Knowesgate has been given a new lease of life, six years after accommodating its last overnight guest and three years since pulling its last pint.

But Mr Sarwar, who runs the Newcastle Rooms hotel, spotted huge potential in the building, and was convinced enough to purchase it and bring it up to a high standard once again.

All 14 rooms have been fitted out with luxurious beds and modern decor, while a communal Jacuzzi will be up-and-running in the coming weeks.

There is also a two bedroom apartment available for guests, while a function room and conference room are for hire too.

Mr Sarwar, whose 17-year-old son Arrian will act as managing director of the hotel, said he wanted to rebuild the hotel’s reputation after the negativity surrounding it in recent years.

He said: “We can make a difference with what we are doing and we have a completely different business model.

“We want to work with the local community and we opened the bar earlier than the hotel so they had somewhere to drink and they have are over the moon to have it open.

“The idea is to offer accommodation at an affordable rate to an up-market client, and we have already been fully booked on some weekends which is a good sign at this early stage.”

It has been a long year for the team as they have had to rip out the whole interior down and rebuild it from scratch.

Everything in the building is brand new, the hotel almost unrecognisable from its former self.

Mr Sarwar said: “We have had five or six van loads coming from Newcastle every day, and everything has been replaced including the lighting and alarm systems.

“We have put a lot of hard work into it and there have been lots of ups and downs, but we have shown a lot of patience and we have been like a little family here.

“We are delighted with the end result and our overall goal is to make this a success for the benefit of the local community.”

The opening of the hotel has created a handful of jobs for local people, with Paula Shields, from Cambo, appointed operations manager.

Villager Mary Brodie, who is 82 years old, has been given her old job back behind the bar – meaning she has served under every manager at the hotel!

She said: “Jaz has put his heart and soul into this place and he wants it to be for the local community and to create a family orientated atmosphere.

“It has been well supported by the local people and I feel we have already achieved a lot of the things we set out to do.”

The hotel looks set to expand further as Mr Sarwar has submitted plans to build an extension onto the building and treble the number of bedrooms to 42.

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