Debbie Cook has revealed plans to move the Cookie Jar hotel in Alnwick to a bigger site on the same street, three years after the original debuted in the market town.
Northumberland County Council has granted Northumberland Estates planning permission for a £7.9m redevelopment of 2-8 Bailiffgate, a former school building which has been vacant since 2016, into a 40-bedroom upscale hotel with a 40-cover cocktail bar and 80-cover bar and grill.
The development, of which the Cookie Jar will be the long leaseholder and operator, will also include 10 self-catering apartments and a gym and spa complex – a much bigger venue than the original 11-bedroom hotel and bistro at 12 Bailiffgate – as well as a courtyard garden, private dining room and afternoon tea orangerie. The hotel is planned to open in late 2022.
Cook relaunched the Grade II-listed Convent of Mercy as the Cookie Jar hotel in September 2017 following a £1.1m investment. The existing site will become a 10-bedroom, exclusive-use residence when the new site is ready.
Speaking to The Caterer, Cook said: "Even before last summer there was definitely demand for more rooms of quality. I think more and more people are realising that Northumberland has so much to offer. As a destination it is up there and it's just going to grow in popularity.
"We've had three years of the Cookie Jar and our guests love us. We're wanting to take that forward, make it bigger and this opportunity came along, which we weren't expecting. But it's presented itself and we've grabbed it with both hands."
The original Cookie Jar was the first solo venture for Cook, who has worked at hotels including One Devonshire Gardens and the Royal County hotel in Durham, and is the wife of Robert Cook, former chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin and now chief executive of TGI Fridays.
Matt Hulme of Dynargh Design, who created the interiors of many Hotel du Vin properties, as well as the original Cookie Jar, will also oversee the interior design of the new hotel.
The existing staff are hoped to form the core of the new team of around 50-60 employees.
Cook added that she does not plan to open more Cookie Jar hotels. "I think we'll be very happy with our next project," she said.
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