Wirral Council has decided to close its seaside restaurant the Sail Loft in West Kirby.
The restaurant, which opened during the pandemic, had been affected by coronavirus restrictions, a drop in footfall linked to the construction of the West Kirby sea wall and the rising cost of living, as well as rising inflation and energy prices.
It is currently being subsidised by Wirral Council and the local authority forecast that even with the wall now complete, it will still be £120,000 short of making a profit.
Next to the town’s marine lake, the restaurant will close on 31 October with council officers working to find a new commercial owner to take over the venue. Councillors made recommendations that prioritisation be given to local businesses and look to bring in a new tenant as soon as possible.
Unions will now be consulted for any of the 13 staff who might be losing jobs though the council will look to employ them elsewhere within the organisation.
When asked by Cllr Paul Martin whether officers had considered if the restaurant had been given a chance given the unfortunate timing of its opening during the pandemic, council officer Andrew McCartan said he believed the venue would be better operated by a third party.
He said, “Whilst the wider environment remains so uncertain it is one of those small-scale provisions we probably aren’t best placed to operate and probably divert the resources we have got into some of the bigger challenges that we face.”
Labour councillor Tom Laing asked if there was an opportunity when the lease went out “to ensure this goes out to a business that is delivering good local quality jobs.”
Following on from this, committee chair Helen Cameron suggested that priority be given to local companies when looking for a lease before looking more widely, adding, “Some of those local businesses already have a following, already have a lot of agency in the local area as well as attracting people from further afield.”
Cllr Cameron also accused Labour councillors of taking “cheap shots” at the pandemic, adding, ”There’s lots of business that have done really well despite Covid.”
Earlier in the meeting, councillors discussed the future of the Floral Pavilion which is currently under review with Cllr Jenny Johnson calling the situation unsustainable. The committee’s budget is currently £1.8m over budget and that is being driven by £1.44m from the theatre.
While discussing the council’s physical activity policy, Cllr Gary Bennett congratulated officers on the reopening of the Bidston Sports and Activity Centre following a £2.7m investment. The facility now hosts a brand new gym, cafes, and an immersive studio.
Cllr Bennett said, “This project has in my eyes produced an asset that we as a borough can be proud of,” adding, “Special attention must be bought to the fact that this impressive undertaking has happened with no loss of any tennis facilities.”