End of 40-year family ownership of Smiths Court Hotel with new international owners Selina Ltd

Smiths Court Hotel is undergoing renovation ready for reopening in August Photo John Horton

Smiths Court Hotel in Cliftonville has been sold to the Selina International hotel group which has some 52 venues across Europe and Latin America.

Built in the late 1800’s when Cliftonville was emerging as one of the country’s foremost seaside resorts, the building has had an interesting, if chequered past.

Tt was for many years a school. Ann and Robert Smith, who were in the family business at the Lonsdale Court hotel, bought it in the early 1980s as a derelict building following the bankruptcy of the London School of Accountancy.

They recall standing in the basement, surrounded by booklets advising on ‘business finance’ and ‘the road to business success’, and looking at the sky through a hole in the roof five storeys above.

Photo John Horton

They determined not to use any advice in the pamphlets and set about creating Thanet’s first Apart-hotel – Smithys, where holidaymakers could self-cater, or eat in the hotel restaurant or bar.

Ann said: “The first opposition we encountered was from Thanet council which had introduced a rule which required holiday lets to close in January and February to protect the hotel trade and prevent holiday self-catering from becoming permanent flats.

“What a contrast to today’s planners who are looking for ways to prevent permanent flats from becoming Air BnBs!”

For the past 11 years Abbie and Tony Burton, Ann and Robert’s daughter and son-in-law, have run Smiths Court Hotel Ltd, moving into the business for much the same reason as Ann and Robert – to work alongside each other while their young children grew up.

Alex 7, and Casey 3 have loved the space growing up and the whole family will miss the many friends they’ve made in the business, but they’re staying in Cliftonville and say they are looking forward to seeing the new ‘Smiths Court’ journey as it emerges for another chapter.

The Selina group is one of the world’s fastest-growing hospitality brands. It was founded in Latin America in 2015 and is growing at an average of a new property each week. The company plans to rapidly expand across Europe and the United States, targeting 400 locations and 100,000 beds by 2023. It says it uses local artists “to breathe new life” into its buildings, local musicians and creates co-working space for the community. Selina Ltd says it also operates a programme running everything from English classes to mental health workshops, and beach cleanups.

Photo John Horton

Renovation work is currently taking place at the Eastern Esplanade venue and, according to the company’s UK destination website, the revamped Smiths Court Hotel will reopen on August 15 and will offer newly-designed rooms, conservatory restaurant, wellness classes, a co-working areas, live music and a beer garden.


  1. Great news BRILLIANT investment in Cliftonville. Sadly smiths court had become an eyesore and was looking shabby. The smith court owners left a lot of small start up businesses in the lurch when they sold not giving much notice to the small business owners renting their rooms to vacate, these business owners helped it through covid it left a real bitter taste and upset many people.

    • Kate, change always leaves casualties, like GRASS (a non profit making) hahaha C.I.C and the demise of the Farmers Market. We understand they wanted a large cut from the takings? Evening markets BUT you can’t sell anything we sell (restrictive practices, anti completion?) Grow up Squeeze a tea bag!!

      • Situation was slightly more complex and involved the need for insurance in compliance with the law. Sad though regardless.

  2. Let’s wish every success to the new owners and that it is not just another get rich quick company as so often happens in Thanet. At present we have so many new owners/businesses moving into the area looking for a quick buck they not realising that Thanet is only really busy for 4 months of the year. Other streams of revenue have to be sought in order to make businesses survive.

  3. On behalf of Cliftonville Residents Association, I would like to thank Ann & Bob and latterly Abbie & Tony, for all their support to our group over 26 years.
    They let us hold our committee meetings and AGM’s at no cost.
    We held our coffee mornings there, quiz nights, lunches and many other things and were always made so welcome.
    Ann was one of the founder members of the CRA and Bob gave us the idea of setting up the market nearly 21 years ago.
    It is the end of an era for the Smith family and they probably feel sad about it all.
    Good luck to Abbie & Tony for their future and a happy retirement to Ann and Bob, who has not got very good health at the moment.

  4. Not more live music please! We’ve already got a beer garden and unrivalled noise with live music with Albion Rooms, this is also a residential area and where young families live – why should they suffer being kept awake til the early hours – not good for this specific area at all

  5. Thanks for this update Kathy – I was wondering what was happening with the property. Good luck to new owners and hope it’s a success – and not too expensive as relatives have often stayed there when I couldn’t accommodate everyone!

  6. As a child I had many Christmas meals and family functions at Smiths & Lonsdale Court. Lots of good memories made at both venues. Wish the Smiths the very best for the future.

  7. Great news, wishing the business every success.
    Just hope Cliftonville doesn’t get too trendy!

  8. It was suppose to be our Wedding Reception for 80 guest this Saturday. One of my guest who was staying even got a reminder last week about there booking. Why not rub my nose in it that all was cancelled with no time or place to re arrange. After Wedding cancelled and then getting married without friends and family we thought a Reception for our first Anniversary would be great and nothing to worry about. Angry, very upset and certainly will not be given my time or custom to this place.

    • The logic of boycotting the venue, under totally new management would be what, exactly? Punish new owners for something which, based on your explanation, appears to be the fault of the previous owners? You’ll forgive me if I can’t quite understand your rationale.

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