John Dixon Hart: Owner of Georgian guesthouse in Yorkshire likened to 'Basil Fawlty' by judge as he admits misleading customers over dirty rooms

The owner of a Georgian guesthouse in the market town of Beverley has admitted misleading customers by falsely advertising rooms and a fake four-star rating.

John Dixon Hart told Hull Crown Court during a colourful hearing on Wednesday that customers had been deliberately booking stays at Beverley Guesthouse on Keldgate, previously known as Minster Garth, and competing with each other to leave the worst TripAdvisor reviews since his business first began to receive attention.

Judge Mark Bury remarked that the eccentric hotelier had become a victim of his own notoriety as he told the 60-year-old that he would not be sending him to prison.

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Dixon Hart initially denied 12 offences dating from 2021 relating to unfair commercial practices and misleading actions, but on what was the first day of a trial set to last two weeks, admitted six counts and the prosecution agreed not to proceed with the others.

Minster Garth, BeverleyMinster Garth, Beverley
Minster Garth, Beverley

He pleaded guilty to contravening professional diligence by failing to maintain the required standards of hygience, health and safety and customer service, and accepted he misled consumers by posting adverts on booking sites such as Expedia, Laterooms and which showed ‘high specification’ rooms in good and clean condition. He also falsely claimed to hold a four-star rating.

In fact, guests had made numerous complaints regarding the cleanliness of the accommodation.

However, Dixon Hart told the court that his customers were charged only £40 per night for a double room, the cheapest rate in Beverley, yet expected ‘the world’.

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He told an amused Judge Bury: “They’d had a night with heating and light and I told them to sling their hook. I gave arrogant responses.”

He also assured the judge that the B&B was still running at 90 per cent occupancy despite media coverage since the charges were first laid.

Last summer, Dixon Hart was given a 22-week prison sentence for public order offences which included abusive behaviour while drunk, with one of the victims a verger at the nearby Beverley Minster. However, he assured the court that he had stopped drinking heavily since his release, had continued to run the guesthouse and that he was on an ‘even keel’ and taking medication for low mood.

The businessman admitted he had ‘gone off the rails’ and ‘lost his way a bit’ after his wife declined to help him with the upcoming court case and they separated. He has three young children and they have since reconciled.

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Dixon Hart said he was determined to keep the B&B going, and the Crown Prosecution Service were told that any closure order for the premises, which are in a Grade II-listed Georgian building, would have to be sought by East Riding Council.

Judge Bury added: “These guests can’t expect much for £40. I have no power to prevent you running the guesthouse and that is a matter for the magistrates court. You need to prove you can run a guesthouse without taking the p*** out of your guests. I’m not going to be the person to stop you, but I can’t commend you to the council. Reading these papers, I sometimes think you should be called Basil Fawlty.”

Agreeing that others had likened him to John Cleese’s character in Fawlty Towers, Dixon Hart replied: “People now come to stay because they want to meet me.”

Judge Bury even suggested that Dixon Hart put his prices up, to which the hotelier responded that his nearest competitor in Beverley charged £65 but that his philosophy of being the cheapest option ‘had not worked out’.

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He also added that some of the issues had been during a period when a homeless woman and her dog were living on the premises and ‘swapping’ between rooms, and promised that he was no longer ‘rude or profane’ to guests.

Assuring the judge he had been sober during a previous court appearance when it was observed by staff that he ‘was red in the face and looked like he had had a skinful’, Dixon Hart said he no longer drank spirits.

Judge Bury said he would sentence Dixon Hart on May 10 and concluded: “If you can achieve improved health and a proper business, then we will have got somewhere. People do deserve a certain minium standard.”

In 2017 Dixon Hart was fined £7,000 after East Riding Council prosecuted him over complaints from the public about mouldy showers, bloodstained walls, mouse droppings and beds that were already occupied by other guests due to double bookings.