Being part of the community and embracing local history by returning to its original name are key to the rebranded San Clu Hotel in Ramsgate.
Ownership of the Victoria Parade hotel has been taken on by sisters Hema Kanani and Rina Gandhi following the death of their father Kishore Kanani last year.
Kishore had owned the venue since 1989 and one of his wishes was to revert to the San Clu after some 20 years operating as the Comfort Inn.
Yesterday (March 10) this wish was fulfilled with an ‘opening’ ceremony for the San Clu with invited guests including Ramsgate mayor Raushan Ara and historian Ralph Hoult – aka ‘Mr Ramsgate.’
The event included a cutting of the ribbon to the hotel’s revamped bar and restaurant area.
Hema said: “We have rebranded. The hotel has always been known locally as the San Clu and we are trying to bring the community together with a place they can come and relax, enjoy and experience Ramsgate with our lovely views.
“It is second generation run along with our general manager Sarah (Peace) and deputy manager Karen (Nash) and our staff. We would not be where we are today without our staff who all work so hard and bring everything together.
“It is all about community as a local business with local staff. We have work experience from the college and we want them to join us on our journey and have the opportunity to learn with us.”
Rina added: “It was our dad’s dream to bring it back as the San Clu.”
Sarah has been a part of the San Clu family, currently consisting of 28 staff, for some 26 years with Rina describing her as “Dad’s other daughter.”
She says more work is planned following the ‘spruce up’ of the bar, restaurant and reception areas.
The 44 bedrooms are due to be refreshed, bathrooms are being refurbished and other maintenance is being carried out.
Sarah said: “The girls are the same as their dad, putting the money back into the hotel. Mr Kanani made improvements all the time and the girls are the same.
“We were part of the (Comfort Inn) franchise but now it is a case of being independent. The business the franchise gave us was something we can do ourselves. The franchise is really for businesses in a built up area who need that extra marketing but Ramsgate is a seaside town and people come here for that.
“We have the beautiful sea view, there are lovely clifftop and harbour walks and we have great staff. Many of the management team have been here for 15-plus years and some of our waiting staff have been here more than 10 years, we are like a big family.
“Going forward, I think being independent is the right move for us.”
The San Clu is one of the longest standing hotels in Ramsgate, operating since 1887.
Originally called Hotel St Cloud (pronounced the French way “San Clu”) the hotel boasted over 50 bed and sitting rooms, a ladies drawing room, reading and writing rooms, smoking rooms and also stabling and space for motorcars.
On June 29, 1904 the hotel hosted an eight-course meal for Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, who was in Ramsgate for the opening of the Royal Victoria Pavilion, which had been erected in memory of her mother Queen Victoria.
In 1919, the hotel was sold for £10,000 and the name changed from St Cloud to San Clu. It changed hands twice more up to 1926 and in 1928 was gutted by fire, which destroyed the first four sections. The blaze was so great that it could be seen in Deal and Dover.
Following the fire, the burnt out shell was demolished and that section has never been rebuilt.
What was left was restored into a 14 bedroom hotel and after one year it was back in business. That section is now the reception foyer.
In 1935, the hotel was sold once again, this time to Mrs Elsie Robson, or Ma Robson, as she became affectionately known. Mrs Robson was windowed at the early age of 35 with two young sons. She ran the hotel almost single handily.
During the Second World War the Army took over and the hotel became a large billet for troops. Mrs Robson moved to Stafford where she opened a restaurant, which she named The San Clu but she returned in 1944 and regained occupancy. She then purchased a third house, giving the hotel an extra 26 rooms and towards the end of 1944 she was able to purchase the last house along Granville Terrace, bringing the hotel back to almost its original size.
The venue hosted many famous people, such as Randolph Churchill, Benny Hill, Norman Wisdom, Sir Edward Heath, MP Jonathan Atkin, Jeremy Beadle, Archbishops Long, Fisher, Ramsey and Coggan, as well as royalty from Belgium, Denmark and Thailand.
In 1973 another fire broke out, No-one was hurt but there was considerable damage meaning the hotel’s closure for three months although the bar was able to stay open during this time.
Mrs Robson passed away in 1984 aged 90 and her grandson Simon, took over the business.
In 1989, Mr Kanani bought and refurbished the hotel. Since then guests have included band “Madness” who borrowed their room key to display on the cover of their albums.
Such was the excitement of the fans that the switchboard was jammed constantly for three weeks after the release of the album, with calls coming from as far away as China from fans wanting to book the same room as Madness.
The San Clu has 44 rooms, bar/restaurant, sauna and gym (for staying guests) and event/banqueting services.