TALKS are being held to merge the venerable Royal British Hotel in Princes Street with an as-yet unnamed franchise operator.
Directors at the Cairn Group, which owns the iconic building, are in negotiations with an “international hotel chain” to rebrand the 1820s hotel and relaunch under another name. The firm is tight-lipped about its suitor.
News of the proposed merger came as Cairn Group revealed it was pressing ahead with plans for a £3 million refit of the hotel, thought to be the second oldest in the Capital.
Proposals for the overhaul include refurbishing the entrance canopy and transforming unused office space into bedrooms.
A spokesman for the Cairn Group said: “[We] are in negotiations with a prestigious, international hotel chain with the aim of rebranding the Royal British Hotel under their name.”
On the refit, the company said proposed work includes transforming unused office space into nine bedrooms, while plans have also been lodged to refurbish the entrance canopy which may include signage bearing the logo of a new proprietor.
Heritage watchdogs have warned against tarnishing one of the “jewels of Princes Street” with “garish signage” but hotel owners say the “high quality” refurbishment will “rival anything currently available in Edinburgh”.
The iconic Royal British Hotel signs to the front and west gable end of the building are listed and will not be removed or altered in the facelift.
Marion Williams, director of Cockburn Association, said: “The Royal British Hotel is a splendid piece of architecture that we desperately need to hang on to in Princes Street. This news adds to our general concern for what once was a very great street.
“On a building like this, you need to respect the building and any bid needs to enhance the architecture that it has rather than hide behind garish lights or signage. This building is one of the jewels we are hanging on to.”
A spokesman for the Cairn Group said: “When completed, the Royal British Hotel will be an upscale boutique hotel but the owners have pledged to ensure that the tradition and heritage of the building will be maintained.
“The refurbishment and expansion of the Royal British Hotel will prove a massive boost to Princes Street and will offer not only luxury accommodation but also first-class conference and restaurant facilities.”
Work on the new rooms, function rooms and restaurant is due to start in the coming weeks and is scheduled to be completed by June.
The remaining work on the main hotel will be part of a rolling programme of refurbishment which should be finished by the end of the year.
The Royal British Hotel was bought for around £4m by Newcastle-based Cairn Hotel Group in 1997 after being put into the hands of receivers.
The firm secured about 50 jobs as a result of the takeover.