Rex Cinema, Bethnal Green

Art Deco cinema site to premiere budget hotel brand in ‘nervous market’

The former Rex cinema in east London’s Bethnal Green has been earmarked by Accor to debut its Jo&Joe brand in the UK after plans for a boutique hotel were sidelined, The Caterer understands.

Developer Southern Grove previously announced plans for a £45m, 130-bedroom hotel at the site, to be called the Rex, but on further consideration felt the concept was not right for the location.

Speaking to The Caterer, chief executive Tom Slingsby said hoteliers were “nervous about the market” and that it was “a couple of years too early” to take the concept to the area.

He said: “I’m not sure if it was a change in the market but… it became apparent that actually the site was probably suited to more of a hostel concept than a hotel.”

Southern Grove sold the site at the end of last year to Accor, which will operate the property, in partnership with Keys Asset Management. While Accor declined to comment when asked if the property is set to become its first Jo&Joe in the UK, it has been transparent about its plans to open the brand in London since its launch in 2016.

The hostel-style economy brand is designed to appeal to millennials and Accor initially announced plans to open 50 Jo&Joe venues by 2020. The first opened in 2017 in Hossegor, near Biarritz in south-west France, with a surfer vibe and partnerships with retail brands Quiksilver and Roxy (pictured). A second site is due to open in Paris next month.

The Rex cinema originally opened as Smart’s Picture House in 1913, with an auditorium seating nearly 900. It was rebuilt with an art deco façade by cinema architect George Coles in 1938 and became the Rex cinema until 1949 when it was bought by the Essoldo cinema chain. The cinema eventually closed to the public in 1967.

Plans to turn the property into a hotel were part of Southern Grove’s plans to target other hotel and leisure development opportunities in London in a bid to become “a leading provider of small independent hotels in emerging locations”.

Tower Hamlets Council granted permission to convert the site to a hotel in October 2017 and work was expected to begin on the development in January 2018, with a view to the hotel opening in 2020.

Slingsby added that Southern Grove is “actively looking at other opportunities in and around the area”, adding “we’ve just got to find the right site”.

Source: The Caterer

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