Southend Council could launch an ambitious bid to buy one of the borough’s landmarks.
The Echo understands council officers have been told to look into ownership of the Royal Hotel, in Southend High Street, after bailiffs were called in earlier this month.
Senior figures at the authority have not ruled out buying the Grade II listed building, but proposals are at a very early stage.
Any successful bid could include the council going into business with a development partner and turning it into a boutique hotel.
The building has not been used as a hotel for years, instead doubling as an entertainment venue and restaurant.
Independent Ron Woodley, leader of Southend Council, said: “The hotel is such a prized asset to this town.
“We’re not an administration that will sit back and we are here to facilitate opportunities if they come up, and this could be an opportunity we look into.
“My personal preference is to see it regain its former glory as a boutique hotel.
“Anything we do would have to be worthwhile financially in the long term and give us income.”
Records show the building was sold for £1.1million in 2003.
It would probably fetch a similar price today.
Southend-based property agents Ayers and Cruiks have been drafted in to look after the building.
The Grade II listed building was built in 1791.
It has been used as a bar, restaurant and nightclub in recent years, but fresh hopes have now been raised that it could flourish under new investment, whoever takes it over.
Lib Dem Graham Longley, councillor responsible for enterprise, tourism and economic regeneration at the council, said: “It’s a pivotal piece of real estate for the seafront and the High Street.
“We must look at options as to how it progresses but we need to be careful before we start saying we’re going to buy it.
“It needs regeneration from a tourism point of view. It’s a landmark building and it’s right and proper to ensure it returns to one of the prime buildings for the town.”
Historians angry but optimistic
ANGRY historians are optimistic about the hotel’s future.
The hotel is widely regarded as one of the pieces of architecture that started Southend, with the building erected at the top of Pier Hill in 1791.
It was even given a Royal seal of approval by Princess Caroline when it opened two years later.
Historian Marion Pearce, of Hamlet Road, Southend, said: “It’s a wonderful Georgian building and for it to get into the state it has become is nothing sort of a disgrace.
“I would like to see it come back as a hotel. It would be nice to see that part of the town regenerated on the basis of its history. “It was part of a complex of buildings that were some of the original ones in Southend and it’s one of the historical buildings left in the town.”
The building has been out of action as a hotel for some time, with a series of owners preferring to use it as an entertainment venue.
Fellow historian Judith Williams, 51, of Lovelace Gardens, Southend, added: “I would like it to become a hotel again.
“It’s a shame that such a lovely building, which is over 200 years old, has got to this stage but hopefully something can be done.”