Published: 14:04, 30 December 2021
| Updated: 14:41, 30 December 2021
After being dogged by a series of delays, staff shortages and Covid lockdowns, a swish new restaurant is finally opening.
Fish at 55 and Sakana at 55, serving up fish and sushi, will finally launch in the next few weeks at the former Simply Italian in Rochester High Street at the corner of Northgate.
Business partners Alan Brett and Steve Pennington have been frustrated by months of hold-ups of furniture and kitchen equipment being delivered from Poland and China.
The nationwide shortage of experienced catering staff also impacted on the planned opening in September.
Like all in the hospitality sector, they have been hit by last-minute cancellations over the festive period at their other premises in the town which has cost them tens of thousands of pounds.
Although no firm date has been fixed, Mr Brett is now confident their latest venture will be up-and-running by the end of January.
Spread over three floors, the building has undergone extensive refurbishment since it closed about 15 months ago.
It will employ about 30 staff including five chefs, bringing the total workforce of their businesses in the town to more than 50.
Mr Brett, 58, said the new Omicron variant of the virus and "mixed messages" from the government about going out had "decimated" his trade.
The father-of-four, who lives in Frindsbury, said: "It has been very difficult. We are honouring deposits until later in the year and we have honoured staff rotas."
The partners also run Oliver's Bar and Restaurant at the Star Hill end of the High Street, Brettington's Steak and Lobster House and the Rochester Coffee Shop.
He said: "We have been operating in the town for 11 years, so we must be doing something right.
"We have had furniture and equipment stuck in containers for months. But now we're on track to opening our latest restaurant, which will bring something new and different to the town."