Pavilion Gardens Cafe saved from closure

From The Argus:

A historic cafe has been saved from demolition following a mass public campaign.

Brighton’s Pavilion Gardens Cafe, which has been run by the Sewell family for 73 years, was earmarked to be knocked down and moved to an unspecified site, but following a huge public backlash, the council and Pavilion estate owners have said the cafe will remain.

Owner David Sewell described the news as a “huge relief”.

Speaking last night, he said: “It is fantastic news, I’m really optimistic for the future. I have spent a lot of time in meetings and worrying about this. Hopefully this assurance will mean I can spend more time at my cafe providing the service my customers deserve. We have a huge number of loyal customers and supporters who have stood up for us and I would like to thank them.”

The Sewell family has run the cafe since 1941. However, its future was thrown into doubt last year when Brighton Dome bosses unveiled the estate’s master plan for the coming decades. As part of the proposal, it was suggested the cafe could be housed in a new building as part of a visitor centre.

In October last year Catherine Carey, of the Royal Pavilion Estate Masterplan project team, told The Argus the cafe was part of their grand scheme. Dismissing the proposal as a “journey into the unknown” Mr Sewell demanded reassurances. A huge public campaign followed which saw close to 6,000 sign an online petition.

Despite this, Dome chief executive Andrew Comben denied the backlash was a trigger for the change of plans, instead citing it as part of the process. He said: “We’ve been talking about this with David Sewell and the Friends of the Cafe since May last year. That was an ongoing process in which we got around a table and tried to understand each other’s positions. The public reaction was just part of that.” He added: “Coming up with a vision, people are going to have lots of different views. We needed to make sure we took them on board and that is part of the process.”

Describing the news as a “step forward”, Mr Sewell said he hoped the future would see a closer relationship between the two. He said: “For many years I think those at the Dome have underestimated us. While their management has changed countless times over the years, my family has been here since 1941. We are the eyes and the ears of the Pavilion Gardens and we could offer a lot. However, that hasn’t been the case and I think those in charge have lost out as a result. I would welcome working closer with them in the future and would be happy to help where I can.” He added: “We have customers going back 40, 50, 60 years. We are part of the community and the community wanted that to remain. It was really nice to see so many people get behind us and support us and I just hope we can now move forward and work together to make the Pavilion Gardens and estate the best it can be.”

Penny Thompson, chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council, was a key figure in the talks with the cafe and estate owners. She said: “I’m delighted we have reached an agreement to work together. This project is vital to the heart of the city and needs the input of the Pavilion Gardens Cafe community to help shape a Royal Pavilion Estate for the 21st century. We will strive to preserve and recognise the contribution of the 20th century in the form of the cafe buildings and patio which are clearly so precious to so many.”

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