THE owner of a hotel that is being prepared for Ukrainian refugees says he would have had to close anyway due to rising costs.
Colm Bonner, proprietor of The Viking House Hotel in Kincasslagh, has faced a barrage of online criticism since announcing on Sunday that it is to close.
The 12-bedroom Viking House, which was once owned by Daniel O’Donnell, is the latest hotel in the county to shut its doors to the public in order to accommodate those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Seaking to the Donegal News yesterday, the Kincasslagh man said he does not yet know how many refugees will be staying.
But he said he will do his best to ensure each individual is vetted and their background checked.
They will be resident in The Viking House for six months after which the intention is to reopen as a public hotel.
By taking the families in, he can at least hold on to some staff, Mr Bonner said. Otherwise he would have had to lay his entire workforce off.
“I would have had to close anyway,” said the hotelier.
“Oil, gas, electricity, they have all gone up massively so there was no possibility of getting through the winter with bills like that. This way I can keep my core staff in employment.”
Mr Bonner only took over The Viking House in November last year.
The summer trade was good but prior to that he was forced to close briefly on a number of occasions due to Covid.
He said running a hotel was a constant battle with a huge amount of work done behind the scenes – work that the majority of people never get to witness.
“It is probably the most difficult business you can get into, anyone in this industry will tell you that.
“You are problem solving all the time. I have had chefs walk out on me in the middle of busy functions, you could get a call at 6am to tell you there is no hot water. It is a 24-hour-per-day job and you are constantly firefighting.
“At least now I’ll have a more structured life for a while.”
The Viking House’s contract with the government is for six months after which it will reopen “bigger and better” according to its owner.
Announcing the closure plans, the hotel appealed for donations to help those moving in. That appeal has borne fruit with several bags of items including clothes and toiletries dropped off.
“There are good people, it’s just that some feel this is their hotel and it is being taken away from them,” said Mr Bonner. And I can understand that frustration because I would have the same fears.
“But I will be vetting every person who comes through my door. I will do my best to find out their background information because I want people to be happy and I want my staff to be safe.It won’t be a bunch of men coming unless there is a damn good reason for them being here.”
Having worked all over the world the hotel owner said he has some grasp of the Russian language. So communication should not be a problem.
He added that he will use the six months to make improvements to the hotel prior to its reopening in 2023.
“I have three children and a wife. I’ve been paying bills when I didn’t know where the money was coming from. In this business you work 120 hours a week, if someone doesn’t turn in you end up doing three shifts by yourself. But it was my decision to take on this challenge and I must face the consequences.”