Enjoy the Luxury of a Liner on Dry Land; Andy Kelly Meets DAVID DOYLE, the Owner of Liverpool's First Themed Hotel IN ASSOCIATION WITH Rensburg Sheppards the Profile

Article excerpt

Byline: Andy Kelly

A SK any stranger to name two things they know about Liverpool and it's fair to say The Beatles and the city's maritime heritage are likely to figure highly among responses.

It's appropriate, then, that the city's first two themed hotels will reflect those same two characteristics.

While work continues apace on A Hard Day's Night, the longawaited Fab Four hotel, on North John Street, a hotel dedicated to the city's sea-going tradition is already successfully up and running.

The Liner hotel, on Lord Nelson Street, aims to recreate for its guests the feel of an oceangoing liner, transporting guests back to a "Golden Age" of travel.

You won't find rooms here, only 152 cabins. You won't find floors, only decks. One end of the large Britannic ballroom features a balcony designed as the replica of the bow of an ocean liner while port holes substitute for windows.

It's all part of the vision of David Doyle, the man who bought the hotel from Granada Forte in 2000 and who has just completed a major three-year refurbishment that has completely repositioned the hotel in the Liverpool marketplace.

If you haven't heard of The Liner, you probably know it better as The Gladstone, the 1970sera hotel at the rear of Lime Street station which once had a reputation as a great place for a few drinks, particularly if Liverpool had been playing at home.

As Mr Doyle recalls: "We used to have a lot of group bookings with coachloads of guests turning up and as a result our wet sales (drinks) were very high. But we have moved away from that now. Of course, we will still take small groups of two or four and families for the football but we avoid the coach parties. We wanted to very much be a family hotel."

The 52-year-old decided on a completely new start for the hotel, with a new name and a theme inspired by Liverpool's maritime history. The fact his grandfather was torpedoed twice during WWII may have had something to do with it.

"My grandfather worked on cruise ships and he used to tell me stories about some of the famous film stars he met there. Those stories stayed with me and I'm sure were part of my inspiration for The Liner."

Enlisting the help of architect (and Liverpool gallery owner) Ken Martin, and with Liverpool's Flanagan Group as the contractors, Mr Doyle went about transforming the hotel and giving life to his vision for The Liner.

As he takes me on a tour of the hotel, his pride in the results of his labour is clear for all to see. R EMARKABLY, the huge changes in the hotel were achieved without the need for a full closure.

"We were able to keep trading, which obviously helped in terms of keeping money coming into the business, but I'm also very proud of the fact that it meant we didn't have to lay off a single member of our staff - who number around 115 - while the work was completed.

"That was very satisfying for me," said Mr Doyle.

"Obviously we had a few problems, usually with the noise when we needed to drill, but our customers were very understanding and we were able to resolve any issues. …