A BRIGHTON-born entrepreneur has unveiled plans to transform historic Stanmer House into a near Michelin level restaurant and boutique hotel.

Alex Proud has signed a long lease on the Brighton country house which was previously run by Whiting and Hammond.

The pub operator ended its five year involvement with the grade I listed venue on Sunday with the venue reopening today. [Wednesday]

Mr Proud told The Argus he hoped to raise the standard of the restaurant to rosette level and had a longer-term plan to create five star hotel rooms in the house’s top floors.

Gallery and club owner Mr Proud, whose company has run the Brighton Ballroom since 2010, said that it was a “friendly takeover” of the 18th century manor house and that its transformation would not be rushed.

He said: “Stanmer House is one of the most stunning unique properties in Brighton.

“You can never truly own it but we hope to take stewardship of it for a generation.

“I have a very clear vision for it but we will be listening very carefully to make sure we get it right, it will be a gradual change not a revolution.”

The 46-year-old said he wanted to upgrade the food offer to sliver service with formal dining and jazz nights on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting later this month.

He said his firm would make six-figure investment in upgrading the kitchens and gardens and that the building’s three informal front rooms would remain for the “walking crowd” but would receive a “smartening up”.

Mr Proud said he was extremely excited and keen to get started on the project after purchasing the leasehold for a “significant” but commercially sensitive sum.

The Daily Telegraph columnist added: “The restaurant will be upgraded to sub Michelin star quality.

“We probably won’t aim for Michelin star because that’s a hiding to lose money but a rosette level restaurant.

“We might be moving away from the current pub offering but we still want to be welcoming to all, to children and to dogs.

“I’m hoping to speak to the planning authorities to convert the top floor bedrooms for staff into five-star hotel rooms to create around 24 hotel rooms.

“I think Brighton lacks for really upmarket hotel rooms.”

Stanmer House owner Mike Holland said Mr Proud’s involvement was “very positive” news bringing new ideas and investment” to the historic venue.

He added: “Whiting and Hammond did well for a time but hopefully Alex Proud can take it to a new level.

“He is as interested in Brighton and Hove as I am.

“I am pleased it’s happened, even though it wasn’t really up to me as Whiting and Hammond had the long lease, but we still had to approve it.”


ENTREPRENEUR Alex Proud has more than just money riding on his latest venture at Stanmer House – the expectations of his mother have also to be met.

The Proud Cabaret founder was born opposite the Goldstone ground in Hove, lived as a child near North Road, Brighton, and has fond childhood memories of the 18th Century manor house.

He said: “I remember my mum taking me as a kid to Stanmer House, she was in tears when I told her I was going to be taking it on.

“Brighton is my hometown, I still live nearby, I’ve just taken my son to the Amex for the first time a few months ago. I’m incredibly proud of where I come from.

“When I heard that the current owner was potentially interested in letting it go I grabbed at the chance with both hands, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s as good as it gets really, it’s like being asked to run the Royal Pavilion.”

His father’s own experiences of running a stamp shop in The Lanes encouraged him to start up his own business and since 1998 he has developed Proud Galleries into one of Europe’s most popular private photographic galleries, expanded into entertainment venues with Proud Cabaret and built a company with a turnover of £10 million.

He made his first business foray back into his hometown in 2010 when he took over the then Hanbury Ballrooms and said he had learnt his lesson from that experience.

He said: “We came in all guns blazing but then didn’t do very well for six months and ended up looking like arrogant Londoners coming down, even though I’m from here.

“So this time, we’re going to go in quietly, listen to customers, listen to the Brighton public and reviewers and try and develop our plans as we go along.”

Despite its slightly shaky start, the 46-year-old said he was very proud of the success at Brighton Ballroom, a venue where 10 firms had tried and failed and gone bankrupt before he took it over.

Mr Proud said he had been looking for a while for another opportunity in Brighton and had come close to reopening a major nightclub in the city. He said Stanmer House would now play a key role in his firm’s future.

He added: “Brighton really is important of our future and I see Stanmer House as a flagship building for the group.”