The owners of the Maryfield Hotel in Bressay have been left dismayed after the Canadian couple to whom they leased the property disappeared.
David Wood and his wife Linda leased the hotel, the only one in Bressay, to Patrick and Morgan Blanch from 1st August last year.
The Blanches, who had arrived in Shetland a couple of months previously, maintained they had 28 years’ experience in hospitality and the food and drinks industry.
But last Monday, 7th April, they left Shetland suddenly, owing Mr and Mrs Wood a “substantial sum”.
The closure of the hotel is another blow to the island community, following news that the primary school is to close in July.
Mr Wood said: “The tenants have done a runner. They have disappeared and gone. They didn’t open last Monday, we’ve had a couple of cryptic texts and emails from them but we don’t know where they’ve gone. They went with absolutely no word to anybody, it’s a pretty bad situation.”
Wholesalers J. W. Gray has been supplying the Blanches but the company would not confirm whether it was owed money. Instead manager Iain Johnston said the situation was “delicate” and he refused to comment further at this time.
As well as the situation being disheartening for him, Mr Wood said the fact the Blanches had left Bressay had upset the island community.
He said: “They made a mess of [the hotel]. They haven’t run it properly. There are two microwaves in the car park. It has been shut for a week. It’s leaving a bad taste in the mouths of the people of Bressay.”
There is no prospect of the premises re-opening in the near future, said Mr Wood, as technically the Blanches still run it. He has put the situation in the hands of his lawyer and has informed the police, due to the reported damage at the property.
He said: “At the minute I’m trying to get access. Technically they [the Blanches] still have the lease. I’m led to believe if the building is abandoned I’m at liberty to gain entry and change the locks.
“We really know nothing until we can get into the building. I’m hoping we can trace the keys.”
But Mr Wood remains perplexed about the situation. The Blanches, he said, had a three-year lease with the obligation – not option – to buy at the end of that period. Now they have gone, he said: “I just don’t know why they did it.”
Initially the Blanches impressed the community with their enthusiasm. They had come to the UK to find a business, and in Maryfield had apparently found what they were looking for.
The couple had ambitious plans for the hotel, including upgrading it to a five-star rating, and eventually extending the building to offer 10 new bedrooms in addition to refurbishing the existing six.
They planned to have bicycles and kayaks for hire, and an improved off-sales service. There would also be a new restaurant menu, planned by a Michelin starred chef, which would include as much local produce as possible.
Instead of that their stated intention to run a “boutique hotel” has come to nothing.
The Shetland Times contacted the Blanches by email to seek clarification of the position and outlining Mr Wood’s claims. The reply said: “Don’t believe everything you hear and read!”
A further enquiry to the Blanches yielded the following response: “We very much appreciate your concern. This is a devastating time for our family as well. We adore not only the people of Bressay but also the area in which we have such fond appreciation and love for.
“We are owed substantial funds and have been left a horrible situation we can no longer afford to be part of at this time.
“I hope we can return soon with some sort of resolution and begin to move forward. We wish you well sincerely and that you know you are in our thoughts as well.”
Police said the force would only become involved if there was alleged criminal damage to the property.