On Monday March 30 Potbank Aparthotel in Stoke-on-Trent featured in popular Channel 4 reality TV show Four in a Bed. The show was set in and around the Potbank Aparthotel – a recently converted early 19th century “potbank” within the 250 year old former Spode factory. Filming took place in the spring of 2019, long before the emergence of the Covid 19 virus and featured a lighthearted look at the hotel. Ashley Booth and Jennifer Ellis – who work for the aparthotel group as project manager/designer and receptionist – went head to head with three other independent B&B operators. Potbank Aparthotel were the overall runners up!
Today – in the midst of the Covid 19 lockdown – things have dramatically changed for both Potbank and the hotel and hospitality industry in general. Events and holidays are cancelled and most hotels are shut by order of the government. However, Potbank and its sister aparthotel hotel, Lymedale Suites are still open.
Jeff Nash, who owns both Potbank Hotel in Stoke Town Centre and Lymedale Suites on the A34 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, explained: “As risks surrounding the virus began to increase it was obvious to us this was going to be a more widespread concern so we decided we would prepare to entirely focus on providing keyworkers with a safe place to manage their contacts outside of their front line work places. We started this preparation several weeks ago and we are now ready to help.
“We offer self-contained suites and we have already seen a rise in demand from guests who want to manage their social contact and also self-isolate if they need to. We have also seen doctors and key workers amongst this demand who wanted to stay with us to manage their own risk of contact with vulnerable family members. All of our rooms have en-suites, a living space with sofas desks and TVs, and a mini kitchen, and Potbank is actually the only hotel now open in the whole of Stoke on Trent and is fully booked until July.”
Jeff added: “People on the “front line” are obviously frightened about catching the virus and many, particularly those with vulnerable people at home, are really terrified about passing it on to their families. Staying with us they will be able to manage how they keep contact with their family and also maintain social isolation to minimise risks. We really admire the sacrifices these people are making and we are determined to help keep them and their families safe while they stay with us.
“However, as a small independent company, we cannot offer these rooms for free, we can offer them at cost and will be looking for other support to reduce these costs further. We would be happy to supply these rooms direct to the NHS if they request and have made them aware of our facilities.”
Jeff also told us: “When the closures were announced surrounding hospitality businesses we had the option to lodge a full claim under our business interruption insurance to cover our hospitality income and the related loss of business in the hotels. This would have allowed us to shut up shop and wait for things to return to normal. However, we didn’t feel comfortable doing that knowing we could help by offering our rooms to keyworkers. It really complicates, and delays our claim, but we will just have to manage that.
“We wanted to focus on the keyworkers because it was clear to us it was needed. We have had to take huge risks in securing supply chains, acquiring additional equipment and developing special procedures to keep our staff and guests safe.
“However, people really understand why this service is needed and we have had help from our bank, our insurance brokers and also from some of the top virus experts at a local university who agreed to review our amended hotel procedures.”
Talking about the Four In a Bed show which featured Potbank Hotel, Jeff said: “We know the next few months are going to be tough, but we are determined to play our part in the effort to defeat the virus. But it is also important for us not to not lose sight of getting “to the other side” of this crisis and we are looking forward to enjoying the show as a taste of what it will be like for us when things return to normal.”
**Anyone who would like to get in touch about available rooms at the Potbank Hotel and Lymedale Suites for Keyworkers during the Covid 19 crisis are asked to view the website www.potbank.co.uk or telephone 01782 866719 or 07378 896629 and ask for Sandra Barnes.