Cardiff’s Coal Exchange opens its doors this weekend in a renewed bid to launch the historical building as a hotel.
After a £40m revamp, the site – often said to be where the world price of coal was once set – reopened as the Exchange Hotel in 2017.
But that ended when the building’s owners, Signature Living Coal Exchange, went into administration in May.
The building’s main creditor and an investment syndicate are relaunching it as The Coal Exchange Hotel.
Former Cardiff councillor and businessman Ashley Govier has taken on the management agreement and will be running the operations side of the business.
“We’ve really been trying to get the building ready for opening,” he said.
“Obviously there was quite a bit of work to do because the building was standing still for four to five months as a result of national lockdown and then to get the building Covid-safe – that’s really what the team have been doing over the last few weeks.”
Mr Govier said £500,000 has already been spent on electrical certification, gas and water checks and Cardiff council gave the venue a licence last month in spite of opposition from some residents.
- Cardiff’s Exchange Hotel owners go into administration
- Coal Exchange reopens after ‘crumbling eyesore’ is saved
- Cardiff Coal Exchange revamp should be halted, MP says
Only the front section of the building, which contains the old trading hall, the restaurant, the entrance and 65 bedrooms, will be available to the new operator.
The building is in the hands of an official receiver, who disclaimed those parts of the building to allow the new hotel to trade.
Previous operator Signature Living raised funds from more than 100 individual bedroom investors from all over the world.
They bought rooms for thousands of pounds and leased them back to the hotel in exchange for an annual return. Many of those rooms were never built and investors say they failed to get their promised returns.
Gerald Woosnam from Llanidloes was one of them – he invested in a room in 2017 with his business partner, who lives in Cardiff.
“It was such a derelict building that this looked to be a good way to get it back on its feet again so we bought one of the bedrooms as an investment.
“We were shown around by Lawrence Kenwright [of Signature Living Coal Exchange Ltd] when it was pretty much a building site and it was a lovely hotel when it re-opened with a fantastic restaurant.”
But Mr Woosnam does not know if his room has been completed or not and an official receiver is now working with the bedroom investors to see how best to move forward.
It is estimated about £8 million is needed to complete the rest of the renovation work, but it is unclear where that funding might come from.
- ‘Eyesore’ Tudor house snapped up for restoration
- Residents fight to save ‘loved’ Tudor building
- Historic locations ‘threatened by climate change’
“I won’t put any more money in. Certainly not,” said Mr Woosnam.
“Equally there’s no point wishing it all to fail, otherwise we’ll get nothing. I really want to see it thrive.”
Only people living in Cardiff will be able to visit the hotel because of current Covid-19 -restrictions and Mr Govier admits that adds to the challenge: “We’re going to give it our all, we’ll see how this goes one week at a time, the unknown factor is Covid.”