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Fears 'wonky shop' off-licence could downgrade Rochester High Street

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A town centre boss fears plans for an off-licence in what's known as "the wonky shop" could downgrade the area.

As previously reported, a former salesman wants to turn the empty building in High Street, Rochester, into a micropub and bottle shop.

Paul Dixon wants to open a micropub
Paul Dixon wants to open a micropub

But Sarah Tranter, Rochester City Forum chairman, is concerned if the business fails, the permit for a liquor store remains with the building – and it could be taken over by somebody selling cheap lager and cider.

She is mindful the quirky Grade-II listed premises, which leans to one side, has attracted 11 businesses over the past 14 years.

And she says she is worried history might repeat itself.

She does actually welcome new tenant Paul Dixon's proposal to open the pub selling select craft beers.

But she explained: "I wish him all the luck in the world with this. But if it doesn't work out for whatever reason, somebody could just come in and sell cheap beer.

Forum boss Sarah Tranter
Forum boss Sarah Tranter

"I am protective of Rochester and I am looking at the long term of the High Street here.

"It's a lovely old building and unique in many ways which why so many people fall in love with it."

The last tenants moved in last March with their grocery Food Glorious Food, selling local produce.

But they were dogged with maintenance problems and vacated it within a year.

Before that it was a cafe and sandwich shop, Nana Bev's, another short-lived venture.

Food Glorious Food was previously based there
Food Glorious Food was previously based there

Other uses in its 500-year-old history include a brothel, antiques shop and comedy store.

Mr Dixon, 43, who moved to Rochester a year ago from London, is awaiting approval of his drinks licence.

The self-confessed "ale geek" has given up his advertising job with The Guardian to fulfil his dream of owning a micropub selling craft beers.

The father-of-three, who lives with partner Fran in nearby St Margaret's Street, said: "I'm approaching this because I saw a gap in the market and it's something new for Rochester.

"I'm not approaching this as a short-term thing. I am looking to make it a success.

"I'm also keen to consult with anyone who wants to talk to me about it."

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