THE boards are about to go up in front of one of Hampshire’s most historic businesses after no buyer could be found for the ailing Dolphin Hotel.

The landmark Southampton building, which has been home to luminaries such as Jane Austen and Orson Welles, as well as a reputed six ghosts, is to close at the end of May at the cost of 33 jobs.

Staff were being informed of the bad news yesterday afternoon.

The closure not only throws the future of a building dating back to 1250 into doubt but signals the end for the Dolphin Tap bar, Bleu restaurant and 12 businesses based in Dolphin Lane on the site.

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Administrators were called into the business in November last year when debts climbed to £4.7m after losses more than doubled from £313,000 in 2006 to £731,000 in 2007.

Despite slashing the sale price of the High Street building from £5m to £3m, the Grade II listed, 65-bedroom hotel failed to attract a buyer.

Jane Moriarty and Richard Hill of administrators KPMG Restructuring, said: “Unfortunately a buyer has not come forward to purchase the business as a going concern and as the hotel needs significant investment and repairs to remain open in the longer term, we have no option but to cease trading.

“We will continue to market the property for sale and hope that we will eventually see a refurbished hotel reopen again at some point in the future.”

Former hotel owner Bob Musker said the problems were triggered by the collapse of a deal to build 87 apartments on the hotel car park.

He said: “The hotel had been going well but without that money coming in that was the end of it.

“It’s such a shame. The last I heard the administrators had an offer on the table but obviously they pulled out.

“Let’s hope somebody comes along. I am sorry.”