Stanmer House up for let again

Posted On 07 Feb 2019 at 3:09 pm

Stanmer House by Gorse Fox on Flickr

The lease of Stanmer House is being put up for sale for the third time in eight years after its current management said it had struggled to make it work as a “muddy dog venue”.

Alex Proud, whose Proud Group runs art galleries, restaurants and nightclubs including Proud Caberet in Kemp Town, said there was too much conflict between customers wanting different things from the country house.

He said he had come to the conclusion that to flourish it needs to become a fully fledged hotel and upmarket restaurant – but that he had decided to “bow out gracefully” and let someone else make the necessary transformations.

He said: “We got the planning for a hotel and we were quite keen to do it but essentially I have a certain amount of funds to invest in my group and I want to invest in the core part of our business, not a new hotel.

“At the moment it doesn’t stand as a venue particularly well without the hotel. It’s too many things to too many people. We have some people who regard it as a community asset, and want to spend £1 on a cup of tea and then nurse it in front of the fire for three hours.

“We had one group come in with 16 dogs and when we turned them away they threatened to go online and complain about us. And then someone else complained to us because there were too many barking dogs and how dare we allow them in such a nice house?

“It needs to be a five star hotel and people realise that if you go there, like they go to the Ginger Pig, it’s going to be a certain way.

“However much everyone loves the idea of it, the reality is that the two previous operators lost money trying to run it as a muddy dog venue.

“The cafe up the road can serve 100 people in one room with just a couple of staff members. We would need six rooms and a whole team of people to do the same so we can’t do it for the same price.

“We have been breaking even, the problem is I invested £750,000 doing it up. It’s a place I’m passionate enough about, it’s an institution that needs someone who can take it one step further.

“So I’m bowing out gracefully. I’m talking to about 20 interested people. I think it will go to an individual like me who owns a few venues but wants to invest in hotels.”

The leasehold to Stanmer House was put on the market in late summer 2016 by property developer Mike Holland, who was jailed for nine months the following year for manslaughter over the death of a carpenter working on the stables behind the main house.

He had bought the 125-year leasehold from Brighton and Hove City Council in 2009 and spent £5million restoring the country house.

In 2011, he sublet it to pub company Whiting and Hammond and in June 2016 Proud took over and rebranded it the Proud Country House at Stanmer Park.

The lease now being sold by Proud runs for 19 years with the right to renew.

Meanwhile, the leasehold was sold by Mr Holland to Brighton businessmen Peter McDonell, Mark Ratcliffe and Christopher Gargan, founders of KSD Group, co-owners of Whitehawk FC and investors in Brighton and Hove Albion FC.

  1. Christina Reply

    Maybe Alex Proud if you had improved the service and actually been welcoming to the people who actually use the house, you might have succeeded. But instead your standards were so appalling that you had to write fake tripadvisor reviews. And got caught. Here’s to someone who knows what they’re doing taking it over.

  2. Sarah Reply

    To be honest, these self indulgent comments say more about the failure of this venture than anything else.

    I have been in there with a group of friends (and dogs – they were happy to take our money then) and waited THREE hours for them to get a simple food order right. During this time we saw other people just giving up and walking out because the service was so bad. We probably did nurse one cup of tea during that time because the stafff were too busy trying to find ways to blame us for why our food hadn’t come. We darent order anything else in the meantime as we didn’t know when or what would arrive! This was the final straw for us – on previous occasions we’d been in for drinks and it constantly seemed that even the most basic essentials were out of stock…

    The place was blighted not by dog owners but by the sheer inability of staff to provide any sort of service, let alone good, and I now understand why the staff were so rude – it was following the example set by management.

  3. John Reply

    Agree with the other comments – perhaps this business might have been viable if the whole experience wasn’t so poor.

    We ate there once and it took over an hour to get our food, only to be told that some of what we ordered wasn’t actually available. Rather than wait some more for replacements we just ate what was served…then they had the cheek to try and charge us for the non available items, which took forever to explain to them that we didn’t get them!

    Second time was just for drinks and they couldn’t even get that right. It’s all well and good wanting to go up market but you need to ensure you meet the required standards!

    Let’s hope the next operator knows what they’re doing.

  4. Marc Reply

    Stanmer House is a very fine looking country house, and after walk in the park and surrounds, it looks inviting to sit in the garden for a refreshment. The experience changes from that point onwards. There is no one to take an order. When going indoors to the bar area you are met by a very slow moving long qeue, where it takes 30 minutes just to order a drink. I cannot imagine how long it would take to order from the kitchen.

    I’m not surprised the current management can not make this profitable.

  5. tippy Reply

    I’m really not surprised, and if I’m honest, pretty pleased that this has failed. It’s been so badly managed that it could do nothing but sink. Last year, they served me the worst meal I’ve ever eaten, for which I had been charged (in advance, natch) £100 per head. The breathtakingly rude management threatened to sue me for blackmail if I posted any reviews online. The Tripadvisor reviews since Proud took over are eye-poppingly awful. And, as a previous poster says, they have been sanctioned by Tripadvisor for posting huge numbers of fake positive reviews.

  6. gordon hayes Reply

    I feel that Stanmer House needs to be treated in a much better way than at present as it is a prestigious building. It was never going to be successful as a type of eatery. Having seen many upmarket hotels throughout the country I feel this should be its destiny. Brighton does attract the rich and famous so what better way than for these people to stay in luxury in such a delightful and scenic area. Also right near the Amex stadium which I feel would be a captive audience.

  7. ellie midfulness Reply

    alex proud ruined it – his attitude sucks too. good riddance

  8. bini Reply

    I agree it probably needs to be an upmarket hotel but lovely though the building was the service has been pretty dire. Staff are very pleasant but you wait ages for the simplest orders. Took my partners mother there for a pre booked mother’s day lunch – it wa a roast but we all had to pre choose which roast we wanted , service was dire with the last meal being brought to the table as the first one was finished.
    Side orders were forgotten and the bill was totalled wrongly. On querying the bill ( in a queue of others doingthe same) it took over an hour to sort it
    We’ve been back for coffee in the garden after a dog walk but don’t think I’d attempt to eat there again

  9. Jacqueline Madders Reply

    Should be five stars and utilise stables for polo and elitist hacks/hunt.

  10. Rachel Reply

    Good riddance to Proud. Terrible service, overpriced drinks, cold food ‘served’ with no cutlery, the list is endless. I asked the manager to reheat our cold hot chocolates and chill our warm white wine and was told to leave. Cold chips were a fiver for 7 – 71p per chip! I now know that Proud Stanmer was already in liquidation, no wonder the manager didn’t care about how he spoke to his customers! The toilets were filthy and there was no running water. The staff were slow and surly and there was only one beer on. Stanmer House is in a great location and used to be packed with visitors to Stanmer and locals alike. It’s a captive audience, Proud must have worked really hard to fail this badly. And in such a short time! All that’s required is a log fire, friendly service and reasonably-priced food and drinks. Simple.

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