Restaurants line up to take on empty city centre shops

Posted On 30 Jun 2022 at 5:38 pm

More high street shops are set to become restaurants as relaxed planning laws continue to transform the city.

Last week plans were submitted to turn two former shops in North Street, a hairdressers in Western Road and laundrette in Lewes Road into restaurants or takeaways.

The owners of a proposed new restaurant at a former bank in Marlborough Place are also asking for permission to put a canopy over an outdoor terrace.

Earlier this month, plans were submitted for a new roof terrace above the former Topshop Unit in Churchill Square, as part of a scheme to turn half of it into a gastropub.

Gavin Stewart, the chief executive officer of Brilliant Brighton, which represents city centre businesses, said although the high street was seeing a shift to hospitality, Brighton was well placed to adapt and thrive.

He said: “Post-pandemic, the high street is changing and towns and cities across the UK need to reimagine what they look like.

“We are at the start of this process in Brighton and Hove, but unlike other places, we have weathered shop closures well over the last 12 months.

“Our current vacancy rate in the Business Improvement District area (Brilliant Brighton) is 7.71%, compared to the national average which is over 14%.

“Businesses will only thrive if there are people to use them.

“Whether or not the city can sustain a growth in the hospitality sector is yet to be seen, but as long as our vacant premises are low and we continue to attract the annual visitor numbers of over 11m from pre-pandemic levels, we will hopefully still be ahead of the curve.”

Two of the planned new city centre restaurants are from the owner of The Coal Shed, which first opened in Boyce’s Street in Brighton in 2011.

Owner Raz Helelat, who is also behind The Salt Room on King’s Road and Burnt Orange on Middle Street, is opening high-end Italian restaurant Tutto in the former Allied Irish Bank building in Marlborough Place.

The Coal Shed has also applied to turn the ground floor of Clarence House into a new branch of The Coal Shed.

Permission for a new shopfront was granted last week, and a new application has now been submitted to turn most of of the ground floor into an 80-cover restaurant with an open kitchen, private dining room and roof lantern over the courtyard.

About a quarter of the ground floor would be a separate unit, with a bar and outside seating.

The Coal Shed was approached for comment, but did not confirm whether its existing Brighton restaurant would be moving here, or remaining open.

A more extensive application to turn the rest of Clarence House into flats was submitted last year but is still outstanding.

The building has been extensively squatted, and was the scene of the brutal murder of Billy Henham on New Year’s Day last year, for which four men were found guilty in February.

Just a few doors along in North Street, Goldstone Ltd has applied to turn the former STA Travel shop into a restaurant and takeaway.

In Western Road, Zeki Isik wants to turn Celly’s hair salon into a restaurant and takeaway, opening until 11pm.

And in Lewes Road, Florenc Gjona wants to turn the Lewes Road Stores, which includes a laundrette and off licence, into a takeaway.

A recent change in planning law has made it much easier for commercial buildings to get a change in use.

Previously, shops and restaurants had two different use classes, A1 and A3. Now both are in a new use class, E, which also includes a range of commercial uses such as banks, bowling alleys, clinics and offices.

However, pubs have changed from A4 to sui generis, which means not belonging to any other classification.

  1. Peter Challis Reply

    As more and more retailers leave the city and only food and drink outlets move in to satisfy “hospitality”, I’m so glad I live on the outskirts of the city and can drive to other towns where there are still broad selections of outlets and motorists are warmly welcomed.

    • Andy Richards Reply

      What retailers have left the city?

      • Helen Reply

        Andy Richards
        Woolworths, Debenham’s, Vokins, Hannington’s, Dixons, Brighton Electrical, BHS, Co-Op, John’s camping to name just a few.

        • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

          All useful, back in the day.

        • Hove Guy Reply

          And there are loads of empty shops in the Lanes area.
          One thing that is not needed in B&H is yet more restaurants, especially now, when the cost of eating and drinking out has become phenomenally expensive. The city is packed with visitors this time of the year, but how many restaurants will survive this winter?

        • Robin Hislop Reply

          All of which went under because no one shopped in them. Everyone moans about the death of the high street retailer, then goes home and makes another order on Amazon. The world is changing – we’ll see fewer shops in town centres, but more services like restaurants and hairdressers. We’ll also see more commercial buildings concerted to residential in city centres, bringing more life to these areas. I for one will not mourn the identikit high street which were deserted after dark.

        • Mary Reply

          Helen, and which city in the UK has retained these shops? None, because the issue you are referring to is a national one and nothing to do with Brighton. If you’d bothered to read the article you’ll see that Brighton has fewer vacant shops than the national average.

        • Andy Richards Reply

          So…..shops that have left EVERY city because they’re national chains that went bust. Is that really all you could come up with.

    • Tom Reply

      I’m so glad I live in the more central parts of the city where there are so many good and drink options, also hardly need to use my car.

    • Mary Reply

      Your irrational, politically motivated, hatred of Brighton is getting pretty boring Peter. The nearest place with a “wider selection of outlets” than Brighton is London (which isn’t exactly car friendly). No rational person would suggest that Eastbourne, Crawley or Worthing have a wider selection of shops. I can only assume people who make ignorant comments like this don’t actually visit Brighton, it’s totally bizarre. I appreciate we don’t have a John Lewis but other than that, which shops are you missing?

    • Junia Reply

      You know you don’t have to live here, Peter? Plenty of other places in the country where you and your car can enjoy marital bliss in a defunct Woolworths or whatever it is you’re into.

  2. Billy Bob Reply

    I don’t know where they are going to find staff for all these new restaurants, it’s difficult finding enough staff for many of the already operating restaurants in the city. I know of many restaurants that are really struggling to find chefs and decent waiting staff.

    • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

      Speaking purely for myself (I now have mobility issues and can’t even get into town), back in the day when I could get around, Brighton never had many shops that sold anything I wanted and, even those which did, have long since disappeared. The result is that I now (and have to because of mobility issues) get everything I want from Amazon.

      ‘Restaurants’ is not the right name for most of these places anyway. Most of them are just fast-food joints, of which we have far too many already.

      As Peter Challis said above (well done, Peter), if I have the occasional opportunity to be driven somewhere else – anywhere out of this cesspit that central Brighton has become – then that’s what happens. To get some proper food (not fast), and somewhere we can park. There are plenty of good places around and about.

      • Tom Reply

        I’m fed up with your hatred of Brighton (and by extension, hatred of the UK, given these issues are much worse in other towns and cities). Perhaps move elsewhere if you hate the UK so much?

        • fed-up with brighton politics Reply

          Hopefully Tom, you were trying to reply to Peter rather than me. However, Peter has never intimated that he hates the UK (so your ‘by extension’ comment has no foundation whatsoever, unless you care to justify it). We’re all – even you – entitled to an opinion. You love central Brighton and Peter obviously doesn’t – where’s the argument there? Room for all opinions, perhaps?

          • Dave

            The reason shops are closing is high rents, unfair business taxes which favour big corporate warehouse and delivery firms over small businesses and Amazon, Amazon, who also don’t pay a penny in corporation tax or for that matter council rates, which should be scrapped.
            If you want a high street with shops, stop using Amazon basically, simple as that. The prices are basically the same as Amazon charge retailers 20% comission

  3. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    The word is LaundErette, despite Hanif Kureshi thinking otherwise.

  4. Sammy Reply

    LaundErettes don’t only wash clothes….. hospitality is a great way of cleanining money too.

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