THE managing director of a hotel group based in north Essex has celebrated 30 years at a famous seaside pub.

Ray Dowsett, who will be 48 on Saturday, started working at the popular Tom Peppers pub in Clacton on his 18th birthday.

He worked his way up from pulling pints to become managing director of Surya Hotels, part of the Harwich-based Flying Tarde group.

Ray now oversees 400 staff, two pubs and 13 hotels, including The Kingscliff Hotel in Holland-on-Sea and The George in Colchester, which is currently undergoing refurbishment.

He is also managing director of FTG Leisure, which owns Clacton’s Tom Peppers, The Loft nightclub and The Cellar bar, together with Colchester’s Bricklayers Arms.

Ray said: “I just love working in hospitality – it’s all I know really.

“I enjoy the people, I enjoy the industry – it has some amazing moments.

“This year has been a tough one due to Covid-19 and coming out of it will be a real challenge.

“But you’ve got to take the opportunity to do things like refurbishments, like we have done at The Kingscliff Hotel.

“I started working at Tom Peppers when I was 18 and I was about 24 when I started managing it.

“It was called Bailey’s when I started and it was just in the process of becoming Tom Peppers and Fibbers.

“The nightclub went through a phase of being called Wahoo and then it became The Loft - it was owned by a couple of people in those years and then Flying Trade bought it about eight years ago.”

Thanks to his success at the venue and his own business ventures, the group made Ray operations director for its Surya Hotels arm and later managing director.

His portfolio now covers a much wider range of businesses, but Ray still enjoys being connected to the venue where he started his career.

“We have had a lot of good times at Tom Peppers,” he added.

“Everybody has been there from Joey Essex and The Only Way is Essex stars to Hollyoaks stars,” he said.

“The anniversary of Suki’s [Suki Dulai, chief executive of the group] ownership of the venue is in August, so each year between the August bank holiday and Clacton Carnival we try to have a birthday weekend – and usually we get a big name to come down for it.

“When it comes to World Cups and the Euros, Tom Peppers is amazing – I love the atmosphere. It is such a buzz.”

Ray even celebrated his 30th birthday in the pub.

He said: “I have run my own businesses in between, including Harry’s Bar and Restaurant in Thorpe-le-Soken, which I sold, but I surrendered my own businesses to further my career as a managing director.

“I grew up in Tom Peppers and have ended up spending my career in hospitality.

“The current manager Julie does a wonderful job, but I love to still be associated with it after all these years.”