A seafront restaurant forced to close after the owner was fined for mouse droppings then lost his alcohol licence has been empty for more than a year and other traders are unhappy about it.
Azure, owned by Max Mazurenko, lost its alcohol licence in October 2016 when a panel heard it had attempted to get round licensing conditions by serving free cups of cold pasta alongside drinks.
But although the restaurant in Lower Promenade closed, Mr Mazurenko still has the 25-year lease, which lasts until 2028. It was briefly let to another tenant, Natasha Aghiros, who opened a restaurant called Fluid there for a few months over the summer of 2017.
But by autumn it was closed, and in January a repossession notice went up. The unit was again advertised to let in April, but no new tenant has yet come forward, and meanwhile the restaurant’s distinctive blue shutters have been a regular target for graffiti vandals.
One trader whose shop is a few doors down, is calling on the council to step in and take back the lease, saying the empty unit is dragging down an area of the seafront already suffering from neglect.
Ken Frost, who runs Oh So Swedish with partner Eva Hellqvist, said: “What was once a thriving business (under a previous experienced seaside trader) is now a derelict site that negatively impacts the brand value of Brighton beach, and the turnover of neighbouring businesses.
“The council should strip the incumbent of the lease and, in the short-term whilst looking for a long term solution and competent trader/business, allow pop up traders to use the site before it rots from non use.”
The empty restaurant’s next door neighbours, the C:\Side Quest games cafe, are in another unit previously leased by Mr Mazurenko, which he gutted but never used before surrendered the lease.
Co-owner James Dance said: “It’s a venue that we have put offers in on because it’s linked to ours. But in our opinion the price isn’t reflective of what we would be able to afford, and spend to do just the same basic refurb we had to do with our unit, things that no customer would see like new power and floorboards.
“It’s not ideal that it’s sitting empty because of the regeneration of the area. But I would rather it was empty than have something pop up and then close over the winter.”
A council spokesperson said: “The council owns 9-11 Lower Promenade. In 2013 we agreed a 25-year lease with XTO Ltd for these properties.
“The tenant surrendered the lease to Number 11 in December 2014. Number 11 is now leased to Indie Holdings and operates as C:\ Side Quest.
“Issues around the use of these properties or any sub-letting arrangements at them would be a matter for the leaseholders, not the council.”
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