Five minutes with...Craig Dowie, MD of The Crown Hotel, Bawtry
Craig Dowie is the managing director of the Crown Hotel, on Market Place, High Street, Bawtry, and the prestigious wedding venue Bawtry Hall, on South Parade, which employs 83 people.
Aged 55, Craig is originally from the Hebrides in Scotland, but has lived in Retford for the past 18 years, taking over the running of the Crown Hotel 17 years ago.
He recently became a grandfather after his 26-year-old daughter Antonia gave birth to Freddie, thankfully, before lockdown so he was able to see him.
He also has a son Alexander, aged 28, who lives in Leeds and who runs his own company, Keyhole Creative Media, in Bawtry.
Craig has been involved in the hospitality trade since he was aged 14 or 15, having started by working in local hotels in Stornaway.
We caught up with him this week to find out how he is coping with the lockdown rules and the effect it is having on the hospitality trade as a whole.
This is what he had to say...
“I go to the hotel every day for three or four hours and I’ve been spending my time
transferring weddings and accommodation that had to be cancelled, trying to book into next year.
“From 2020 there has been a 100 per cent conversion rate, and all the deals have been agreed to 2022, we have taken no further desopits and not asked anyone for any more money.
“I have been in touch with all the corporate customers we deal with asking when they are expecting to return, when they might be looking for accommodation.”
And what about getting the business back on track?
“We need a spearheaded attack and are tenatively looking at opening the doors from June 1 for key workers and the construction sector, but the bar and restaurant need to remain closed.
“We’re looking at personal protective equipment and risk assessments.”
However, Craig is fearful for the future of some businesses.
“If they tell us we can open our bar and restaurant with restrictions it would mean at 20 per cent capacity which just isn’t viable.
“If furlough falls through my fear is that in a couple of months time there will be no independent bars and restaurants left.
“The hospitality industry needs to be looked at.
“My biggest fear for the future of the sector if restaurants are so strict is, is it worthwhile?
“Who wants to sit in a restaurant where you can’t sit next to the people and you have to be served by people in masks?
“Our whole industry is about people, it’s about smiles, fun, happiness and interaction, your mental health is better, you relax more, socialising keeps us sane.
“I’m concerned about the isolation of people and how they will cope with it, it affects all corners of the community.
“This is like prohibition.
“There needs to be a practical and safe return.
“We need common sense. Hotels, bars, racing stadiums, they can’t just open the door and fill up, it will take months to rebuild the business back up.”
He admits he is struggling with effects of lockdown on his business.
He says: “I’m finding it really hard as I’m a workaholic and I like to have a sense of purpose.
“I enjoy working, I enjoy to visit different restaurants, I’m a social butterfly, I like food, going out for a bottle of red wine in good company, it’s my buzz, everything has been taken from me.”
However, he has not been sitting on his laurels during lockdown, he has painted the outside of the Crown to give it an impressive new frontage.
“I’m trying to get lots of work done while we’re quiet.
“We’ve got big plans for a soft opening in June but we’ve got to assess the demand, that will be the starting point. In July we’ll adapt what we’re doing.
“We’ve got some big decisions to make.”
The Crown Hotel describes itself as ‘the leading luxury hotel in the Doncaster region, set in the heart of Bawtry, the beautiful Georgian market town, on the Yorkshire and Nottingham border’.
A spokesman for the hotel, which also caters for weddings, said: “The Crown Hotel exudes a luxury, yet contemporary and rustic style together with stunning food and drinks. We also pride ourselves on impeccable service. Our stunning 77 bedrooms offer luxury style and comfort. Our show-stopping executive rooms offer sumptuous sunken beds, mood lighting and relaxing rainfall showers.
“There is a stylish restaurant and its modern bar is, usually, always buzzing, people travelling from far and wide to enjoy what’s on offer.”
Bawtry Hall, a Grade II-listed building dating to 1778, is described as a ‘luxury unique wedding and events venue in the centre of Bawtry’.