Nyeri’s iconic White Rhino Hotel has been put up for auction, joining a growing list of hospitality establishments that have gone under the hammer or folded up as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to bite.
The 111-year-old facility located at the heart of the town is set to be sold by Garam Investments Auctioneers on June 2.
In a notice in local dailies, the auctioneers said the facility sitting on a three-acre parcel had outstanding land rates arrears of Sh1.2 million as of July 2021.
According to the auctioneers, the leasehold property, for a term of 50 years effective September 1, 2008, has annual revisable ground rent of Sh146,400.
“Bidders will be expected to produce a bidding deposit of Sh10 million by way of cash or bankers cheque before being allowed to bid,” Garam said.
The establishment, managed by Legend Hotels Limited, was founded in 1910. It was named ‘White Rhino’ after white settlers shot and killed a rhino at the site.
The hotel had been built for big game hunters and initially only admitted white guests. But this changed in 1965, and it grew into one of the biggest hotels in the region.
The pioneer owners were Europeans Berkely Cole, Lord Cranworth and Sandy Herd. When Kenya gained independence, they sold it to an Asian businessman Ramnic Bhadrese, who later sold it to Amos Wamuyu in 1970.
In his renovations, Mr Wamuyu put down a ‘whites-only’ sign that had been erected at the entrance.
Fifteen years later, the hotel changed its ownership to its current owner- the family of the former Kieni MP David Munene Kairu, which manages it through Legend Hotels Limited. It was gazetted as a national monument in 2001.
The multi-storey hotel building has a bar, restaurant, staff quarters, administration block, coffee shop, butchery, gatehouse, basement parking and a borehole.
The facility will be the fourth landmark hotel in the region that will close down owing to the effects of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry.
Outspan and Treetops hotel, built in the 1920s, were put up for sale in October last year. Outspan was home to the founder of the Scouts movement, Lord Baden-Powell, from 1938 to 1941. Treetops earned global recognition as the hotel where Elizabeth II went to bed as a princess and woke up as a queen following the death of King George VI.
Serena Mountain Lounge, on Chaka Road in Nyeri, shut down in March last year. The hotel in Mount Kenya National Park was famed for its forest adventures.
The Green Hills hotel, associated with former President Mwai Kibaki, has closed and reopened twice since the onset of the pandemic. It closed its operations again in March 2021.
It was started in the 1970s by the late Kibaki and built its reputation by becoming one of the landmark hotels in Nyeri, especially for business travellers.