Published: 12:00, 08 June 2021
| Updated: 12:18, 08 June 2021
Huge supermarket chain Tesco looks set to open a new shop, sharing the premises with an Indian restaurant.
Based on Heath Road, Coxheath, the plans will see Spice Lounge significantly reduce the size of their restaurant, allowing space for a 3,800sq ft Tesco Express store and ATM.
It is the latest twist in the saga, with owner Anhar Ali deciding to call time on the business two years ago after plans for retirement flats were submitted to replace it, only for the restaurant to re-open months later.
“We did actually shut for a small period in 2019,” said Mr Ali from Loose.
“I think people just see it when it’s busy on a Saturday. They look at it during those few hours on a Saturday night and say ‘Oh my god, you are so busy’.
“But they don’t realise what happens during the rest of the week.”
Despite reopening indoors on May 17, business has not exactly been booming, and Mr Ali thinks they only served 20 customers indoors last Saturday.
The flats conversion looked set to go ahead in 2019 after it got approval from planning officers at Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) but councillors refused the application and, instead, the restaurant reopened for Christmas later that year.
“I think this is a better option for myself and the village,” said Mr Ali as he discussed plans for the site where there will be 13 parking spaces at Tesco and five or six additional spots for Spice Lounge customers.
“In the last 12 months, we have been hit quite hard and unable to operate the restaurant at times. Our collection service has been doing quite well but the premises are pretty large to operate a takeaway-only operation.
“With the kind of turnover we are getting, it would be sufficient if we were a much smaller unit. This works for us.
“We are reducing the restaurant from more than 100 covers to around 40 covers. We will still continue the collection business.
“The village doesn’t lose out because there will still be a restaurant, albeit a much smaller one, and we will have the retail unit at the rear.”
It will be the second convenience shop in the village - with Londis also based on Heath Road, less than 500ft away.
“With the growth of the village, I think sustaining two shops like that will be fine,” said the 43-year-old.
“Competition is always healthy but it is not for me to comment on Londis.”
There are also plans for Spice Lounge, which currently only opens in the evenings, to open in the day as a cafe.
"I think this is a better option for myself and the village..."
Construction is due to start in July with hopes of a Tesco opening early next year.
There has been a mixed response to the news on social media.
Mr Ali said: "There are always going to be people moaning. There has been a mixed view to it.
"But with the development in and around Coxheath, I think it could do with something like a Tesco."