CARLISLE’S Lakes Court Hotel has been bought by the Hallmark Hotel Group in a deal worth nearly £4 million.
The private-equity-backed firm now plans to make the Court Square hotel Carlisle`s first four-star resort after acquiring the Victorian venue from entrepreneur Ged Crooks last Thursday.
Mr Crooks, who spent around £1million to refit the crumbling hotel when he took it over eight years ago, said he has decided to sell up in order to spend more time in his homes in Spain and Barbados.
He told the Carlisle News & Star: “I’ve decided I want more time to myself, more leisure time. When I bought it, it was derelict and run down and I feel I have improved it for Carlisle. The only way it can go now is up.
“The new owners will take it on to a different level. They want to get it up to four-star, which is something Carlisle lacks. They are good operators – it’s in good hands.”
Mr Crooks will hold onto the ownership of the adjacent Pancho’s Mexican restaurant and the Cassa nightclub that form part of the hotel complex.
A spokeswoman for Hallmark said all of the current staff would remain in place.
She added: “There will be investment in the hotel and in due course, once plans are drawn up and approved, there is an aim to make it four-star. Hallmark is a new hotels group and the aim is to own 10 hotels.
"There will be another two purchases, in Derby and Bournemouth, in the next few months.”
The hotel - once known as The Cumbrian Hotel - used to be one of the best hotels in the north of England.
Built specifically for the arrival of Queen Victoria in Carlisle in the 1800s, the Grade-II listed building had a special entrance so she could walk straight from her carriage into the building.
The interest in creating Carlisle`s first four star hotel has picked up in recent years, with Kingmoor Park owner Brian Scowcroft formulating a plan for 130-bed hotel, restaurant, fitness club and conference facility at the industrial estate.
Recently, businessman Bill Dobie saw plans for a four-star venue in Parkhouse Road, Kingstown, turned down by councillors, while the owners of the derelict Central Plaza Hotel, on Victoria Viaduct, are also hunting four-star status with a transformation of the disused venue.