By Dave Hunter
The Fort Hotel, which has been owned by the Black family since the early 1980s, is undergoing a major, four-year refurbishment project that will see every aspect of the business – public bar, restaurant, lounge bars and bedrooms – revamped.
And the aim of the project, according to owner John Black, is to make the business appeal to as many different groups of customers as possible.
Work began two years ago with the refurbishment of the hotel’s public bar. This was followed, late last year, when the first of the hotel’s two lounge bars received a makeover. The hotel’s rooms have also been gradually modernised over the past two years.
Within the next month, work will have commenced on the main lounge bar, before progressing onto the restaurant area.
“It’s been a rolling project,” said Black. “The bar is still quite traditional, but with a modern feel to it.
“The lounge side will be pretty much the opposite. It’s going to be very modern, but not so it will only appeal to one age group.
“Our age group is very varied. During the week we offer half portions, because we get a lot of pensioners in.
“So we don’t want to put them off. It’s got to be something that young and old will like.
“That’s the theme we’re going for.”
One of the key aims of the refurbishment has been to ensure The Fort’s lounge and restaurant areas are able to cater to one group of customers during the day, serving food and drink, and then function as a late night venue at the weekends (The Fort is licensed until 1am five nights a week, and 2am on two nights).
“The restaurant will be kitted out as a nice place to eat, until about eight o’clock at night, and on a Friday and Saturday night, after the eating finishes, we’re going to turn it into more of a VIP suite, where you can book out tables,” said Black.
After the restaurant area is redeveloped, the focus will turn to the lounge space between the two bars, which is used as a dancefloor.
By the end of this year, Black expects the lounge refurbishment to be complete, allowing him to focus, next year, on revamping The Fort’s outlying buildings, which contain further letting bedrooms.
By the time the project is complete, Black reckons around £500,000 will have been spent.
“When the whole project is finished we’ll keep the punters we’ve got, and hopefully gain more clientele as well,” he said.
“Everything we’re putting in is quality.
“We’re paying quite a bit extra for it, but we don’t put in rubbish. I don’t believe in doing things cheaply.”