Following a £2.5m refurbishment the 83-bedroom Green Dragon Hotel in Herefordshire is already reaping the rewards. This original Grade II coaching inn had fallen into a bad state of repair in recent years having been poorly maintained for decades causing it to have a negative local reputation and dwindling visitors. It also presented an eyesore to the local business district and so when the opportunity arose a regional consortium of investors were keen to bring this once great destination for the city of Hereford back to life.
The project has been led by Julian Vaughan, who grew up in the industry and until recently was the commercial director of hotel technology and marketing company Journey, as well as being involved in transforming his wife’s family home, Dewsall Court in Herefordshire, into a wedding and events venue.
This project was not without its challenges, to add to a modest refurbishment budget and tight timescale the hotel remained operational throughout.
Julian comments “In order to meet our goals financially, staying open was key. During this time there was a heavy reliance on the core team to steer the ship in a new direction. We also inherited an incumbent staff so during this transitional stage it was imperative to create a can-do culture with everyone focused on bringing the hotel back to life.”
The refurbishment was phased and segmented around the building to allow operations to continue throughout the programme. The main contractor was Fileturn, a hospitality specialist with quantity surveying supplied by Keytask, another industry-specific consultant.
“With good communication to guests and a great team effort, we have managed to deliver the refurbishment on time and on a budget”
The hotel’s design vision was to create a boutique budget experience with relaxing surroundings for guests whilst celebrating the property’s architectural heritage and historical past. Julian engaged leading interiors consultancy, Harding and Read to create a sympathetic redesign of the bedrooms and a fresh new look for the public areas while celebrating the mixture of wonderful period features. Julian explained: “We needed to work with a designer that could retain the heritage feel but add some unique contemporary flair. Our budget was tight and the timeline was ambitious, so the design required a pragmatic approach and Harding and Read demonstrated the necessary experience to handle these pressures”
The outcome is a stylish mixture of vintage and modern highlighting the unique and independent style of the hotel, which is aiming to sit in the boutique budget market.
In addition to the room makeover, the hotel now boasts a new dining experience, aptly named, The Hereford, menus arranged by Executive head chef Simon Bolsover. The 90-cover brasserie-style restaurant has a strong focus on celebrating local Herefordshire produce for which the county is famous, including its world-famous beef and many ciders. In homage of this, the walls are adorned with beautiful botanical plates from The Pomona a Victorian collection of Herefordshire apple and pear varieties.
Alongside the restaurant, visitors can also enjoy classic afternoon teas in the lounge, coffee and pastries in the new cafe bar, and beautifully curated cocktails in the historic Offa Bar. To appeal to corporate and event customers there are extensive banqueting and meeting room facilities, including a feature ballroom for 120 sit-down guests.
Just 9 months on since the refurbishment began there are already green shoots which should delight the investment group. Occupancy rates are up 15% and footfall to the new Hereford restaurant is up by 300 covers per week. The hotel now feels vibrant and the heart of city life once again. The Garrick Lounge is attracting business people, the meeting rooms and the grand ballroom are already seeing bookings way into 2020 for conferences, weddings and private functions. In the local business area, this regeneration of a sleeping giant is being felt with an increased number of independent eateries emerging bring a new social-scene for the local community and a great tourism opportunity for the county at large.
Julian finished by saying: “It was always our intention to cost-effectively breath new life into this iconic building and allow the hotel to deliver on 21st-century expectations. By working with a supportive group of investors, we hope to reinvigorate the regional independent corporate and leisure hospitality offering. The hotel should create a platform to build on the rapidly improving food and drink scene in Hereford, support the regional tourism economy and help to make Herefordshire an exciting destination.”