Councillors have rubber-stamped a proposal to close the Sail Loft cafe in West Kirby – but have requested that local businesses are given priority in taking it over.
The cafe, above Wirral Watersports Centre, opened in July 2021 – but its trade was instantly hit by the work on the flood defence scheme, which restricted parking and access, as well as the rising cost of energy and supplies.
A report to councillors considered by the tourism, communities, culture and leisure committee meeting forecast that, when combined with the £155k net subsidy it received in 2022/23, it could be on course to rack up losses totalling £320,000 by the end of the current financial year.
Andy McCartan, Assistant Director for Leisure, Libraries and Customer Engagement, told the committee: “Whilst the wider environment remains so uncertain, I think it’s one of those small scale provisions that we probably aren’t best placed to operate and we can probably divert the resources we have got into some of the bigger challenges that we are going to face.”
He added that he felt it would be “best operated by a third-party, whereby we can get a guaranteed level of income and not have to keep trying to fight against sustaining some of those losses.”
Local Councillor, Jennifer Johnson, said she wanted to see the lease secured as quickly as possible to mitigate the cost of maintaining the site, adding that it is a “fabulous building” with a “wonderful view”, and she would like to see it leased to a local business.
Following a discussion by members of the committee, Chair, Councillor Helen Cameron, successfully put forward an amendment to prioritise options for local organisations at first, before widening out the search to the wider market if necessary. The amendment also requested that the successful applicant assumes operation of the venue “as soon as practically possible”.
The cafe will close at the end of October, with the 13 staff set to be either redeployed within the local authority, or potentially transferred across to a new operator in the event that it reopens as a hospitality venue.