The new £100m extension to the London Hilton Metropole failed its final fire checks this week and was forced to direct nearly 2,000 people due to attend its first conference to other London hotels.
The conference of computer software company Staffware was switched to the Millennium Mayfair hotel in Grosvenor Square and the Grosvenor House in Park Lane yesterday and today. The Four Seasons, in Park Lane, stepped in to stage the conference dinner tonight.
The embarrassing last-minute hitch for the Metropole was the result of a software fault on the fire alarm systems.
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said this sort of problem was "not unusual in new buildings". The hotel was due to be checked again either at the weekend or on Monday, with Hilton confident that the problem had been resolved.
But this was not much help to the 2,000 who came to the conference from all over the world and were forced to head for a different part of London. The 800 residential delegates were still able to stay in the Hilton Metropole bedrooms, which were not affected by the withholding of the fire certificate.
One member of the Staffware team at the conference said the company was only told of the switch in the conference venue at 12.35pm the day before the conference was due to start and that many in the company were "extremely unhappy" about the change.
Tony Potter, chief operating officer for Millennium & Copthorne, said he did not realise that the "very late" conference booking at the Millennium Mayfair had come from Hilton.
George Westwell, general manager at the Metropole, refused to comment on the problems.
by David Harris firstname.lastname@example.org