One of the finest hotel’s on the Yorkshire coast is about to embark on an exciting future. The White Lodge at Filey is poised to reopen under new ownership. We caught up with the new owner Bill Rusling to find out why he chose Filey and the White Lodge as his latest business venture.
We asked Bill, what he loves the most about Filey? Why is it so special?
‘It’s perhaps a cliche, but Filey is unspoilt, it’s a place where my mind can unwind, and I’m totally at peace, well perhaps until I bought a hotel in the middle of a pandemic!
‘But seriously, I first came to Filey as a four-year-old on a family holiday from Sheffield. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with the town. I brought my own daughter on holidays and eventually became the owner of Langford Villa, just two doors up the street from the White Lodge.’
Had he ever stayed at the White Lodge as a guest?
‘Only once. I used to have an apartment at The Bay and had sold it. I promised the furniture to a friend, but we got the dates mixed up. I arrived to an empty house, so had to find somewhere to stay and quick!
‘A girlfriend once stayed here, she was obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor. So at breakfast she ordered a Bloody Mary. Wayne Sanderson was working here at the time, and being such a great sport, he made her a breakfast friendly version, if there’s such a thing, and a more traditional version. I loved the fact that Wayne rose to the challenge, even at 9.30am and perhaps that epitomised what the White Lodge is all about.’
The White Lodge certainly has ‘kerb appeal’, standing as it does at the end of Filey’s graceful Crescent, does he feel a responsibility as a custodian of one of the town’s historic, indeed landmark, buildings?
‘Absolutely. I’m very much a custodian and I definitely acknowledge the responsibility that comes with the tradition and history of the hotel. However, the hotel also has to be relevant to changing tastes and the present day. It’s a balancing act.’
The previous owners, Kim and James Hodgson, did a fabulous job bringing the hotel into the Twenty-First Century, how will you build on that legacy? Is it evolution or revolution?
‘Evolution. There’s a great foundation to build on and it is important to recognise the work that Kim and James put into reviving the hotel. I know that they are delighted that the hotel is staying in local hands, it’s important to them.’
The views from, particularly the restaurant, are unsurpassed. Is it an aim to make the White Lodge, and indeed Filey, a dining destination?
‘Given the context of the times, more than ever I have to walk before I can run. However, in the longer term, all I can say is watch this space …’
In one year’s time, what will be the one thing we will all be talking about?
‘I hope you are all talking about the fabulous atmosphere of the place, wherever you are a visitor or a local. Also a great selection of food at all times of the day.’
Did you always have an ambition to run a hotel?
‘Like most people, as a customer of hotels and restaurants you can’t help but think “how might I do things?” The proof will now, quite literally, be in the pudding.’
When we eventually emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, how do you think that Filey, and British tourism, will recover?
‘In the short-term I think there will be a boom. People have been on a long lock down, there will undoubtedly be a suppressed desire to travel and visit the coast that will be released. For a few years people might be reluctant to travel abroad. In the longer-term British attractions have to make a real effort, things like alfresco dining, I hope there might have to be a relaxing of bye-laws to help that. Also, recognising that British tourists have a global outlook. The well-travelled Brit might expect tapas and an Aperol spritz, every bit as much as fish and chips and a pint.’
We can only but wish Bill, and the staff of the White Lodge, all the best once we return to something like normality. We cannot wait to announce the reopening of the White Lodge, and indeed Filey, in the very near future!