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Why we walked away from The Playa pub on Sheppey


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The licensees of one of Sheppey’s most popular pubs and restaurants have explained why they have quit instead of renewing their lease.

Neil Moran and his sister Laura I’Anson closed the Playa at Minster without warning last week.

Neil Moran and his sister Laura I'Anson have left the Playa pub on The Leas at Minster
Neil Moran and his sister Laura I'Anson have left the Playa pub on The Leas at Minster

They had run the seafront venue on The Leas for five years after taking over from their father Eddie Moran. It had been in the family for 25 years.

Although they say they are leaving on “good terms” with the landlords, Neil said they had been unable to agree a long-term future for the pub.

He said: “We wanted to develop the pub. We would like to have seen a dining area upstairs with views out to the sea or airbnb B rooms.

“We would also have liked to have extended the pub so we could have a function hall to host weddings and events. We were doing more of that in the garden but it costs £5,000 each time to book a marquee. And it also led to noise for the neighbours.

“The garden is also in the wrong spot. It should be in the front so customers can enjoy sea views while having a drink. The car park should be at the back.”

Drone shot of how crowed the Playa could get during one of its beer festivals
Drone shot of how crowed the Playa could get during one of its beer festivals

But he added: “The whole work would have cost about £500,000 which the landlords didn’t want to invest in. We understand their decision but realised we had gone as far as we could with the venue.”

He also admitted the business had been hit hard by Covid lockdowns.

“We weren’t eligible for any government cash because of our business rates. I think we were the only pub in Swale not to get anything.”

Laura said on Facebook: “It has been five years since Neil and I took over the reigns from our dad. They have flown by.

"It is with hugely heavy hearts that we have made the difficult decision to end our time here. This pub has been in our family for the last 25 years.

Neil Moran and his sister Laura take over the Playa from their father Eddie
Neil Moran and his sister Laura take over the Playa from their father Eddie

"This decision has not been made lightly. But we were unable to find a way forward with our contract renewal.”

She added: “We grew up in this pub, brought our children up here, made friends for life, laughed, smiled, cried and grew a wonderful business following on from the success of our amazing Dad.

“Unfortunately, the last two years have been hugely difficult for the hospitality trade and with the lack of government support we received it has made it an impossible situation for us to push forward.

“We both have young families which we feel need our time and attention right now. We are looking forward to being able to spend more time with them throughout the coming months.”

Packed: Some of the crowd at one of the Playa's beer festivals
Packed: Some of the crowd at one of the Playa's beer festivals

She paid tribute to the pub’s customers, who she described as “some of the best people we have ever met” and thanked her staff for being the most “hard-working and loyal bunch of people you could wish to meet.”

She also thanked the landlords for “working with us in a successful business partnership” and wished them “all the best with your future plans.”

It is not known what those plans are.

Laura and Neil also run the catering business @19 at Sheerness Golf Club and the catering for Sittingbourne Golf Club.

The Playa battled through the Covid lockdowns by initially offering a take-away food service. It has also hosted beach parties and has been a popular venue for live music.

Marylebone Jelly were to have played a return gig at the Playa. Picture: Glen Smith
Marylebone Jelly were to have played a return gig at the Playa. Picture: Glen Smith

Swale band Marylebone Jelly, who had been booked to play at the weekend, posted on social media: “Disappointed to read this but understandable given the last two years. Wishing you the best of luck in your future endeavours.”

The pub was also known for raising money for charities including trips to Lourdes, Meadowfield School in Sittingbourne, the Poppy Appeal, Curly’s Farm at Leysdown and mum Summa Barker.

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