Hotel defends decision to oust autism charity

A Melrose hotel has defended its decision to ask a local charity group to halt a meeting so that coach tour residents could use a lounge.

The George & Abbotsford Hotel in Melrose was responding to criticism from the Borders Aspergers and Autism Group Support.

The charity, formed in 2004, has held its monthly meetings in the hotel free of charge for the last five years, but the new lease holders, who took over in December, had asked group members during their recent meeting to vacate the residents’ lounge to make way for coach tour passengers staying in the hotel.

Charity chairman Derek Purvis contacted The Southern to publicise the fact the group’s meetings – held on the last Monday of each month – will now be switched to the Golden Lion pub in Galashiels.

He said the group fully appreciated that the current proprietors of the George & Abbotsford Hotel had ‘inherited’ the monthly meetings when they took over and that additional business from a major national coach company meant use of the hotel’s lounge area was no longer available as a result.

“However, we do feel angered and humiliated at being asked to leave during our meeting so that the foyer/lounge was available for any of the bus party to use if they had so wished,” Mr Purvis added.

“A courtesy call prior to our meeting could have prevented any ill feeling,” he said, adding that group members had already planned to change venues after feeling they were no longer welcome at the George & Abbotsford.

“However, we wish the George & Abbotsford proprietors the best of luck in their business and hope that the bus companies will continue to use their facilities throughout the winter months when other establishments are only too welcoming of local trade,” said Mr Purvis.

A spokesman for the hotel explained the national coach company in question was bringing 100 new guests every week – vital business in difficult economic times, not just for the hotel, but also for other traders in Melrose and elsewhere in the Borders.

“We’d received a number of complaints from guests from the coach tour who were staying with us that they couldn’t make use of the residents’ lounge because of the charity group’s meeting,” he said.

“This group was not paying anything to use our premises and were taking it for granted they could just turn up and use this area in the hotel.

“It’s meant for use by residents and so we had to politely ask them to leave the lounge.”

Told of the hotel’s reaction to the criticism, Mr Purvis said: “We don’t blame the hotel for taking this decision, but perhaps it could have been handled better.

“So, thank you to Craig and all the staff at the Golden Lion who have restored our faith in the ‘community spirit’ which the Borders is so very proud of.”