Couple hope to transform pub and hotel into East Anglian icon

Daniel Espen and Zainab Khan have taken over the Bell Hotel in Clare Picture: GREENE KING

Daniel Espen and Zainab Khan have taken over the Bell Hotel in Clare Picture: GREENE KING - Credit: Archant

A couple who travelled the length and breadth of the country earlier this year in search of their first hotel to run together have settled on a historic Suffolk building.

The Bell Hotel in Clare Picture: GREENE KING

The Bell Hotel in Clare Picture: GREENE KING - Credit: Archant

Daniel Esplen and Zainab Khan covered more than 12,000 miles looking for the right opportunity – and found The Bell Hotel in Clare fitted the bill perfectly.

The Grade II-listed building, based at Market Hill in the town, is an old coaching inn and is owned by Greene King Pub Partners.

“It’s been a long journey to get here,” Daniel said. “In January we decided this was what we wanted to do. We quit our jobs and travelled around the UK, but when we found The Bell Hotel it felt like the right opportunity.

“It’s a fantastic building, with a 28-seat restaurant, a bar and lounge along with 15 guest rooms and two function rooms. It’s an amazing space that we want to make the most of.”

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The couple have more than 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Daniel started working in pubs in his home county of Essex before going on to manage renovations, rebrands and relaunches for bars, restaurants and hotels across five different countries. He was most recently hotel manager at the Sofitel Heathrow airport.

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Zainab has also worked in a number of different countries for the hospitality industry, including bars, restaurants and airlines with experiences in sales, marketing and public relations.

In recent years, The Bell Hotel has often been a pub first and hotel second.

While wanting to retain the pub feel and also create a two-AA-rosette-standard restaurant, the couple are aiming to enhance the hotel side of the business to make it a real destination venue under one roof, providing somewhere for visitors to Clare to stay overnight.

They also hope to employ a number of staff from the local area.

Zainab said: “The goal is that when someone leaves The Bell Hotel, we want them to say to themselves ‘It was worth every penny’ and walk away with a great experience.

“We want to invest in developing people and that’s very much a part of our vision for the hotel as well.”

Daniel and Zainab officially took over the business on July 31, but it is now briefly closed so Greene King can carry out a three-week refurbishment to the downstairs area – with a further investment of the accommodation area planned in a few months’ time.

John Forrest, managing director of Greene King Pub Partners, said: “I wish Daniel and Zainab all the best for their new venture at the Bell Hotel. “They have ambitious and exciting plans for the business and I’m sure their passion and enthusiasm will be welcomed by the Clare community.”

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