Manchester’s newest hotel is targeted at millennials and, as well as providing a place to stay, owner KE Hotels hopes it can become a part of the Spinningfields bar scene.
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“The Moxy brand is very much a bar-led offering,” said Anil Khanna, managing director of KE Hotels. “When you arrive, you get a cocktail and it sets the tone for this stay. Our key focus is to get ourselves into the bar scene of Spinningfields and Deansgate.”
Moxy is part of Marriott and is the group’s fastest-growing brand. There are 16 in the UK, including a 194-bedroom site in Chester that opened 12 months ago.
Moxy in Spinningfields has 146 bedrooms and is run on a franchise basis by KE Hotels.
“[Marriott] get some of our revenues and we get their systems, marketing, and their global reach,” Khanna explained.
He admits the build was challenging.
“Being surrounded by three buildings was always going to be difficult, especially with the façade retained,” he said.
The façade in question is that of Invicta House, a former hat factory and silk works. The vast majority of the hotel is contained within the new-build element, a corten steel structure designed by architects ICA.
The scheme was built by Gilbert Ash. Prior to construction starting, KE had to overcome a double blow brought about by the collapse of two contractors it had lined up to build the hotel.
Bardsley went into administration at the end of 2019. Before that, KE had also lost Midlands-based contractor Shaylor Group, which collapsed earlier that year.
“We bought the site in 2017 and there were a number of challenges,” Khanna said. “But we never lost faith in the long-term future of the hotel.”
Due to the bumpy start, KE was perhaps more prepared for the onset of the pandemic than other developers.
“It just seemed like another hurdle to jump,” said Khanna. “I think everyone worldwide has had problems with Covid, there’s no getting around that. But I think the long-term dynamics of Manchester are still very strong.”
Across town, the recently completed Qbic hotel was sold just weeks after opening. Tristan Capital Partners bought the building and Yotel took over the operation of the John Dalton Street venue.
The same thing will not happen at Khanna’s Moxy.
“We’re here for the long haul. There won’t be a name change coming up,” he said.
Despite his confidence in Manchester, Khanna has no plans in place to start the next project just yet. What the future holds for the city’s hotel market in a time of continued uncertainty is anyone’s guess.
“I have no idea to be honest with you. But I am not worried,” Khanna said when asked for his predictions for the next few months.
However, with concerns over a new variant circulating and tightened restrictions rolled out, Khanna concedes that the first quarter of next year – a notoriously quiet period at the best of times – could be even tougher than usual for hoteliers.
“I think it’s really unpredictable. The main drivers into the city are there, it is just [about] what the rules are going to be and how they’re going to be interpreted. We’ve already seen a number of Christmas bookings drop off since the variants been announced.”
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