THE SUDDEN closure of The Old Mill in Harnham was a surprise to many but a husband-and-wife team have just confirmed they will take over the hotel.

Speaking to The Journal today, August 3, Maria Harris said they would take on the hotel in addition to refurbishing The Boathouse in Salisbury.

Managed by Old Sarum Hotels Ltd., both The Old Mill and Cathedral Hotel went into administration last month. Greene King had previously stated the Old Mill would re-open. 

Maria said: “We were surprised to hear that the Old Mill had gone into [administration], and we had been approached by Greene King last year about the place.

“We were told yesterday that we can pick up the keys in just a couple of weeks. When we first open, we will provide a limited menu, but we plan to close through the whole of January for a full refurbishment.

“This will give us a chance to embrace the building. Food served will be similar to the food at The Stag Hotel so fresh to the plate. We may even name hotel rooms after renowned Bishops of the Cathedral in keeping with the area.”

The couple were not from a hospitality background but after their care consultancy business was affected in the pandemic, husband Steve decided they needed to move into a different industry.

They took over The Stag Hotel in Lyndhurst, and Maria joked: “We couldn’t even pull a pint at that time, but it has now become a go-to place in the area.

“We still have many of the young people working for us and such loyalty is not common in the hospitality industry.

“Recently, we donated £25,000 to local charities such as food banks through fundraisers and our approach is to be a part of the community.”

Having increased the revenue by about 90 per cent at The Stag Hotel, they went to visit the Boat House in Salisbury.

Maria said: “I fell in love with the place even though it needed so much work. We are going for a clean but contemporary feel there and food will be posh sandwiches and soup or tapas with specialities in the evening.” 

Regarding their successes in the hospitality industry to-date, Maria said: “You are only as good as your staff, and we invest heavily in our employees, so we feel like a family in the workplace. Irrespective of age, we have become Mum and Dad.”

One young employee was washing up in the kitchens at The Stag Hotel and is now on an apprenticeship to become a chef. Another worker helping with the maintenance work at The Boat House is starting an apprenticeship there.  

Maria explained that it is not just about financial investment into staff but about support.

The Boat House is set to open its doors first the first time in years on August 31 with The Old Mill due to re-open towards the end of September.