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Talk of the Town in Herne Bay could be turned into restaurant

By Jack Dyson

The owner of a seafront arcade and nightclub has blamed sky-high losses and a fall in trade for his decision to sell up.

Michael Khoury has completed a deal to hand over the Talk of the Town in Central Parade, which is now likely to be converted into a restaurant.

It marks the end of almost three decades for him and his brother Abe at the amusements, which have suffered a dent in takings since the formation of the Gambling Commission in 2007.

Michael Khouri outside the Talk of the Town with his brother and business partner, Abe Khouri
Michael Khouri outside the Talk of the Town with his brother and business partner, Abe Khouri

He says the arcade has struggled to deal with industry changes and has lost large amounts of money since 2015.

“Since the Gambling Commission has come in, there’s been so much paperwork and aggravation that sometimes I’d look at it and think ‘why should I do it?’,” Mr Khoury explained.

“We were making money in the late-80s, 90s and 2000s, but when the commission came in the atmosphere changed.

“We used to pay £35 to the council for our licence, but now we pay about £700. The Gambling Commission is the same; it just wants your money.”

Brought in to regulate arcades, bookmakers and casinos, the commission has in recent years clamped down on the use of fixed odds betting terminals – dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling”.

Arcade and bingo operators are no longer allowed to host the machines – a move Mr Khoury, who is also president of the Herne Bay Chamber of Commerce, has mixed feelings about.

“We had fixed odds betting terminals taken away from us about five years ago,” he said, “so the bookies are the only ones who have them now. That was one of the nails in the coffin.”

He added further trade has been lost as a result of innovations in the video game market, which have meant that “everyone can get them now on their phones”.

Michael Khoury
Michael Khoury

The nightclub above the arcade, formerly called The Front, was included in the sale.

Since it was closed in June 2016, Mr Khoury says he has paid about £28,000 for it in business rates.

“We didn’t want to get anybody to run it, we wanted someone respectable, because it’s all one building and whatever happens with the club affects the arcade,” he said.

“It was a major headache and it was draining me.”

The property has already been sold and Mr Khoury expects the owners to convert it into a restaurant, with plans approved last year for such a conversion.

Despite selling the Talk of the Town, Mr Khoury will remain in Herne Bay and is even looking to add some retail units to his business portfolio.

“I won’t be leaving Herne Bay and I’ll still be investing in the town,” he said.

“I bought a couple of properties in Beltinge a couple of weeks ago. We’re just restructuring at the moment.”

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