The grand Zanzibar hotel
Looking for a new business opportunity? Charlotte Pearson has found just what you might be looking for in Hastings.
Moving home is always about changes. Usually in relation to the location or surroundings,
but for those who buy the Zanzibar Hotel, Hastings, it is more about lifestyle.
“It would be ideal for someone who has lived in London or Brighton and wants a change of pace. You can take walks along the beach or just explore,” explains current owner Max O’Rourke, who says the hotel would be a great opportunity for a couple with hospitality experience.
Max bought the hotel in 2001 when it featured 16 bedrooms and ten shared bathrooms with ‘fluorescent green walls throughout’. Friends said maybe he was taking on too much.
“It was really dilapidated, but I could see the potential,” he recalls. “I gutted it to create foreign student accommodation, so it was very basic and I charged about £10 a night.”
After four years running it as this, the foreign language school moved many of its students to London and Brighton, leaving Max with a tough decision.
“I realised that I either had to sell it or change it to a hotel,” he says. “So I gutted it all over again to create five rooms with ensuites.
“Over the years I have added more bedrooms, the bar and restaurant.”
Initially Max explains those who knew his plans were unsure a boutique hotel would work in the historic town, with tourists preferring to stay in Brighton.
“I would tell them the reason why people who like these types of hotels don’t come to Hastings might be because there isn’t somewhere like this for them to stay,” he says.
With 95 per cent occupancy at most times throughout the year, repeat customers and being featured in Condé Nast Traveller and the Mail Online it seems Max was on to something.
The hotel currently has eight rooms, all decorated in themes relating to travel, including India, Japan and Bali.
“I knew I didn’t want it to be tacky so we don’t have polar bears in Antarctica or elephants in Africa,” he explains.
“There are hints of the theme, so in the African room there is a zebra rug and an African voodoo mask.”
The themes were inspired by Max’s travels during the winter months when he was running the student accommodation with a business partner who took over the reins.
“We all buy things when we are away but they usually get locked away in a drawer,” he says.
“I wanted to be able to show off the unique, one-off pieces that I had collected and this seemed like a great way to do that.”
It was these travels that also inspired the name, with a little help from a pocket atlas.
“I went through the A-Z at the back while I was in bed,” he begins. “I was falling asleep by the time I got to U and was starting to lose hope that I would find anything.”
But getting to Z and Zanzibar, Max had his ‘eureka’ moment.
“I remembered that I had the best holiday in Zanzibar one Christmas and New Year and it just seemed to fit as it sounds exotic,” he enthuses.
The boutique hotel is situated right on Hastings beach with views across the sea, something which guests can enjoy through the floor to ceiling windows.
There is also the opportunity to live on-site in the Manhattan self-contained penthouse apartment, which features a jukebox, skylights, and a fishtank coffee table.
At the Pier Nine restaurant there is space for 50 covers, with an additional terrace that seats 26.
The hotel is being sold with the staff and furniture and is an opportunity for someone to get stuck in straight away.
“It started with just me and my business partner when we first opened,” reveals Max. “We now have about 17 members of staff, including four chefs, three waiting staff, a restaurant manager, four housekeepers, and three hotel duty managers.”
Describing the hotel as a ‘part of his soul’, Max admits he will miss running it, but he wants to put his family first.
“I have a young son so I want to be a ‘present’ dad for him growing up,” he reveals. “Also I’m 44 now and feel that I am at the age where I could do something else if I wanted to.”
For a change of scenery by the sea Zanzibar could be just the opportunity you are looking for.
The price is £1.35m, and it is being sold by the owner. Enquiries to: email@example.com or
July 27, 2016 Interiors and Property