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North Norfolk coastal hotel slashes opening hours, owner blames skyrocketing rates

PUBLISHED: 15:25 19 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:34 19 March 2019

The George Hotel, at Cley, as seen from the marshes.
 The hotel's owner, Steven Cleeve, has opted to slash its opening hours. Photo: Keiron Tovell

The George Hotel, at Cley, as seen from the marshes. The hotel's owner, Steven Cleeve, has opted to slash its opening hours. Photo: Keiron Tovell

An iconic north Norfolk hotel has drastically cut back on its opening hours as its owner slams the government for skyrocketing rates he says are killing business.

Stephen Cleeve, owner of the George hotel at Cley next the sea in north Norfolk. Picture: Ian BurtStephen Cleeve, owner of the George hotel at Cley next the sea in north Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

The George at Cley next the Sea, an 18th Century building just a short walk from the village’s iconic windmill, shut its restaurant and accommodation just after Christmas due to a lack of trade.

Owner Stephen Cleeve, who put the hotel on the market last summer for £895,000, said the venue failed to make enough profit to justify keeping it open all year.

Mr Cleeve, who bought the George in 2013 and also owns King’s Lynn Town football club, said: “I tried my hardest, but there’s absolutely no point in it sitting there if it’s not making any money.

“Someone in the government should sort out the business rates system - it’s stupid. It should be called property tax. I was paying £1,200 a month 18 months ago and now it’s £2,200.

The George Hotel, Cley.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe George Hotel, Cley. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“Someone in the government takes these decisions, and as we’ve seen recently the government is a shocking shambles.”

Mr Cleeve said the George would re-open in April as they had bookings for the Easter holidays, but he said it would shut during quieter periods.

“I’m not prepared to lose any more money,” he said.

Mr Cleeve said escalating rates were forcing many firms out of business. He said: “There are so many companies going bust on the high street now and it’s all down to taxation forcing people out of business. I don’t understand the logic behind it.

“It’s a shame because the George is a nice building and a nice place.”

Mr Cleeve said the hotel would only be viable if, for example, a husband-and-wife team wanted to live there and run it themselves, which would cut staffing costs.

He said the glut of second homes in Cley, which he believed was as high as 70pc, had also taken its toll.

Mr Cleeve said: “I’m not going to run it any more as a charity. The bar does OK and everyone loves coming there but the staffing rates and the business rates have increased too much.”

Mr Cleeve announced he wanted to sell the hotel last year to focus his time and money on King’s Lynn Town, which is part of Southern League Premier Division Central.

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