Council considers future of West Kirby seafront restaurant

Wirral Council is looking to close a seafront restaurant as it continues to lose money.

The Sail Loft coastal kitchen sits next to the marine lake in West Kirby and first opened in July 2021. However, the impact of the pandemic, inflation, and the construction of the West Kirby sea wall has meant the restaurant continues to lose money.

Last year, the restaurant made headlines after a council report revealed it had significantly lost business due to the construction of the West Kirby sea wall. Many other businesses in the town had also linked a loss of business to the building works which saw a loss of hundreds of parking spaces in the town.

Wirral Council is now looking to close the restaurant on 31 October, if councillors approve the move next week and begin looking for a private operator to take over for the spring and summer of 2024. The 13 staff who currently work there will be offered other jobs within the council if vacancies exist and trade unions will be consulted.

The restaurant missed its income target last year by £50,000 and saw a total loss of £155,877. A 21 September tourism, communities, culture and leisure committee report said, “A decision to close the venue, however, constitutes a realistic measure and mechanism to produce a saving and enable an income via a commercial lease, whilst supporting an alternative solution for the sustained use of the facility.”

It is currently being subsidised by Wirral Council and the local authority forecasts that even with the wall now complete, it will still be £120,000 short of making a profit.

The report said, “There has been no discernible change in actual income for the first quarter of the 2023-24 financial year when compared to the same period for the previous financial year.”

West Kirby’s sea wall was built to protect a number of properties along the seafront from flooding but businesses said West Kirby had the worst summer it’s ever had. The £19.4m wall is now complete with many now praising the new look of the town’s seafront.

A March 2023 council report said the Sail Loft had seen a drop of £149,000 in income between April and December 2022 as it “has been severely impacted by a demonstrable fall in customers as a consequence of the coastal works on the West Kirby Sea Defence wall.”

West Kirby councillor Jenny Johnson criticised the losses at the time asking the council to “maximise the income” going forward, adding, “This should be one of our greatest assets producing the greatest amount of money.”

The new report said, “Irrespective of the challenges the venue has faced during and post-pandemic, there is no guarantee that if the Council retained the facility, it would operate without a financial subsidy.

“The ability to operate solely as a commercial entity is often constrained by the policies, practices, and procedures of being a local authority. We have a duty to operate within public sector rules around recruitment and procurement.

“Our national terms and conditions for staff are also more costly to operate than those within the private sector. Consequently, the ability to respond to changes in the commercial market are limited, and often slow.”

The report said now the sea wall and improvements to South Parade is complete, this will allow people to dine outside the venue which “may have increased the value and marketability of the asset and any future opportunities.”

The council had hoped from April a new partnership between the Sail Loft and Wirral Evolutions – a people-centred service for adults with disabilities – would increase income.


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