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So near but yet so far – Stroud Hotel’s opening postponed

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With just a day to go until its official opening, the management team at The Stroud Hotel, formerly known as The Imperial, told Stroud Times they’ve been forced to postpone the big event.

Stephanie Burrows, Creative Director, explained: “We are a day away from opening, but yesterday, a pipe burst. Unfortunately, it’s just set us back a little bit, and it’s all hands on deck at the moment.

Stroud Hotel 8 | So near but yet so far - Stroud Hotel's opening postponed
Creative Director, Stephanie Burrows.

“We’re hoping to open at the end of next week, but we’re going to have to take each day as it comes. We’re eager to open and invite the local community in.”

Sam Berg, and his brother Simon, own the hotel. What has the journey been like getting to this point? “It’s been a lot more difficult than I imagined. It’s been a lot more time-consuming, but that’s what we’re all about – we want to get it right.

Stroud Hotel 1 | So near but yet so far - Stroud Hotel's opening postponed
Sam Berg and Stephanie Burrows with the hotel’s logo.

“We want to make sure it’s done correctly and properly. We’ve met a lot of people in the town who remember it as a Berni Inn, through to ‘The Imp’, to the Thai restaurant – and everyone’s got a story of revolving doors and grand staircases and bars upstairs.

“These stories all build up a picture of a building which has had numerous lives and had numerous extensions built onto it, so it’s been a journey of love and it’s taken us a long time to get to where we are now. We’re very, very close and we’re really excited about it,” added Mr Berg.

The building is Grade Two listed, so major structural changes were not possible: “I think that has an effect on where you may be as a star rating for a hotel. We wanted to create this sort of boutique effect, but not so that it doesn’t fit into the local area. We want to be very proud of what we hand over to the team to run and what we hand over to Stroud to enjoy.”

Stroud Hotel 2 | So near but yet so far - Stroud Hotel's opening postponed
Arthur Knights, Executive Chef.

Arthur Knights and Ross Sanders form the hotel’s management team – Arthur having trained with big-name chefs and spent most of his career in the hospitality industry: “I trained as a chef, worked myself up from a pot washer working for Mark Flanagan, who is now Head Chef to the Royal Family. I worked with Gordon Ramsey at 18, opened Gordon Ramsey Paris and was in New York at Per Se.”

He has also worked as Head of Food for the Metropolitan Pub Company, which looked after 80 restaurants, and most recently at Brakspear Managed House Division looking after boutique hotels and pubs.

“I look after all the food and the operational side of the business, so I look after the training for the front of house till systems and the offer, where we pitch ourselves, with regard to our price point and our food and service style.

“We want to create a really nice destination where people come and have more experiential dining – which we don’t feel like Stroud has at the moment – where you can get a really great food and drinks offer but we’ve encouraged it through a fantastic value-driven offer with bespoke salad bar that we built into our pantry room.”

Around 40 new jobs have been created, and this week has seen training on all aspects of running the hotel – from food preparation through to learning about wine recommendations.

Stroud Hotel 10 | So near but yet so far - Stroud Hotel's opening postponed

The hotel proudly sports a new sign – The Stroud Hotel Kitchen Bar – what would Mr Berg say to those who still think of it as ‘The Imp’?

“There was a lot of thought about the name change, and it’s clearly an emotive point. Every single thing in this building is new – we’ve had to change almost everything, from the heating pipes, through to lighting,  doors and the flooring. We’ve got a brand-new kitchen and brand-new bars. We’ve got a brand-new team that haven’t yet worked together, and it’s been a huge task to pull it all together.

“We felt it was a really important thing to change the name. ‘Imperial’ for me felt a bit old-fashioned, and a little bit from back in time. From the second we laid eyes on this it just became natural to call it The Stroud.

“There will be people who will not want the change, but we’ve looked at the history of the building and found out Benjamin Bucknall was the key architect involved in the design, so we’ve named the bar the Bucknall Bar, and will have a Bucknall Beer on tap, so that’s a throwback to the history for those that may be a bit upset ‘The Imp’ name has gone.”

The Imperial, designed by Benjamin Bucknall, the architect who also designed Woodchester Park Mansion, was built in 1863. The hotel was sold to the Stroud Brewery Company in 1949 for £25,000 and was acquired by Berni Inns in 1964, but has been closed since May 2020.

For more information visit: The Stroud Hotel – Your Cotswold Home

Pictures by Matt Bigwood.

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