Clarence Hotel in 2008 (Photo Credit)
The saga of the once proud Clarence Hotel has rumbled on in Llandudno for the last couple of years. It forms a substantial Victorian building, which contains 51 bedrooms and has five and a half storeys, including a basement. The building occupies the whole of Gloddaeth Street’s frontage, between Bodhyfryd Road and Arvon Avenue. The site is within the Llandudno Conservation Area and forms part of an almost continuous frontage of listed buildings along both sides of Gloddaeth Avenue, from Seilo Chapel to Mostyn Street. However, the Hotel itself is not listed.
For many years a successful hotel, it formed part of a hotel chain until 2001. The building was then sold to the present owner, but has not operated as a hotel to any significant extent under its present ownership and ceased operation entirely in about 2007. Its usage since then has attracted a great deal of both controversy and criticism in Llandudno.
The ground floor (formerly the Hotel's Reception/Public areas) was converted into three separate businesses - the Sakura Japanese restaurant (notorious for the raid by the UK Borders Agency which saw them find an illegal immigrant chef living in a chest freezer in the basement!), a bar/cafe called Rumourz (which allegedly operated without Planning Permission) and the Beijing Chinese Restaurant (which also allegedly had an illegal immigrant workforce). Latterly, all three businesses have closed due to various problems and the entire building stands empty. The upper floors of the building cannot be used as the Fire Service has issued a Prohibition order.
In 2005, the owner applied to convert the Hotel into 19 apartments, with an arcade of 3 shops on the Ground Floor. This was refused, as Conwy Council wished it to remain a hotel - it stands within the 'Primary Holiday Accommodation Zone' in Llandudno, which has a presumption against any hotel being granted permission for conversion for another use. In theory, this is a good idea - in practice, it has meant that large 'second tier' hotels like the Clarence are stuck in a cycle of decline. So perhaps a degree of flexibility is required with regard to the Planning issues?
If we face facts, the Clarence hasn't been used as a proper hotel for several years (and when it was open the guest reviews were awful!). The cost of renovating it (given the severe structural problems) almost definitely wouldn't be worth it, compared with the revenue you'd get from running it as a hotel. It has a central location in town but that's about it, no sea views, no car parking and, most importantly, no room to introduce new facilities.
I'm a great believer in being pragmatic about these things - a good conversion job on the Clarence would enhance the appearance of Gloddaeth Street and surely be far preferable to it remaining a derelict hotel for years. If we're brutally honest, one less mediocre hotel in Llandudno would be no great loss for the town...