Anger as historic pub ‘turned into furniture shop overnight’

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Protest: local community fury at shock closure
Protest: local community fury at shock closure

Related tags: Brighton and hove, Hove, Martin webb

Outraged locals are protesting the ‘overnight’ closure of a much-loved Brighton freehouse, which was turned into a furniture shop last week. 

Neither staff nor regulars were given any warning that the Dyke Pub & Kitchen, Dyke Road, was to close and were shocked to discover the change of use, The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​) understands.

One member of staff, who did not wish to be named, told MA​: “Everyone was left completely in the dark. [Some colleagues] went in on Sunday (4 September) and – as far as I’m aware – the owners or at least one of them just said ‘we’re closed’.

“There was no notice given to the staff whatsoever – I found out from our staff Facebook thread. I was in shock for a couple of days with the realisation sinking in.”

There had been no official communication to staff from co-owners Martin Webb and Warrick Armsby-Ward, the member of staff said.

Not taken lightly

In a letter to protest group Save the Brighton Dyke, co-owner Webb said the decision to make the change of use had not been taken lightly.

He said: “We've been working/living there for seven years and have tried absolutely everything to try and make it work as a business.

“We feel very sorry for the locals who have supported us and, where possible, we’ve explained all the reasons for the closure in person. We’ve worked out that by renting the previous pub area to a retail outlet, we can stop losing money.”

The management had tried various initiatives to make the business viable including themed nights, DJs, fine dining, a £20,000 refit and opening a café in the early mornings, but it was losing approximately £5,000 per week at the time of closing, he added.

Ian Fardell, of the Save the Brighton Dyke group, said: “For the staff it’s just appalling. These guys have got rent and bills to pay and they didn’t get any warning because they’re on zero-hours contracts.”

Protesters gathered outside the building, which has had its name changed to Emporium, this weekend, challenging the decision of Webb and Armsby-Ward, who also run Brighton & Hove pubs the Connaught and the Stoneham.

Pay the shortfall

No plans were under way to knock the building down or turn it into a block of flats and he had abided with all planning laws, according to Webb, who wrote: “I know it’s not ideal but [the locals] are not the ones stumping up £5,000 each month to pay the shortfall.”

Emporium had performed "exceptionally well" in its first week and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future, he added.

Fardell said: “People are outraged about this. If you’re a struggling business we understand you have to make money but talk to us and we’ll see what we can do as a community to sort it out.

“If we can make it a community pub, we would do. I don’t think there would be any problem with that. But we’re quite happy to work with [the owners] to make it a success for them and make it a success for the community.”

The Morning Advertiser ​was unable to reach Webb or Armsby-Ward for comment.

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