UNST’s long-standing public bar in the Baltasound Hotel is set to close imminently amid concerns in the community over the effect the business is having on the island’s reputation as a tourist destination.
North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said the decision to close the popular ‘back bar’ just before July’s popular UnstFest event was “ridiculous”.
Hotel owner Stephen Springer was unable to be contacted by Shetland News this week.
It is believed that the bar, which has been open for the best part of 50 years and is regarded as a hub of the community, is set to shut in around two weeks’ time.
The fixtures and fittings look set to be sold to Unst’s Saxa Vord resort, which will use them in its crew room bar.
Some members of the local community have also been concerned about how the hotel – which is the only building of its ilk in the North Isles – has been run by Springer, who took over the establishment in 2015.
Thomson said “to close the bar just before UnstFest, the island’s busiest week, is ridiculous.”
He said he would liaise with the Unst community council on the matter, as well as his fellow North Isles councillors Duncan Simpson and Alec Priest, who similarly are starting their first terms on the council.
“I am fully aware, unlike Mr Springer, that the Baltasound Hotel, along with its public bar, is extremely important not only to the island of Unst, but to all the North Isles given it is the only hotel,” Thomson added.
“Unst relies on its tourism trade and the Baltasound Hotel is an essential part of that.”
The business was previously owned by siblings Steven and Sharn Swan, who bought the hotel in 2008 and undertook a £70,000 refurbishment before selling it on a few years later.
“It’s sad to see it going downhill,” Steven Swan added, “but we have no intimate knowledge about how well he is trading – it’s just based on what other people are saying.”
He said he had some sympathy with for Springer and suggested that community groups could attempt to offer him help – “then can’t say they haven’t tried”.
The main building was converted into the Springfield Hotel in 1939 before outdoor cabins offering more accommodation were installed on site.
In the 1970s the name of the building changed to the Baltasound Hotel, while the public bar was renamed the Springers Bar after the Swans took ownership.
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