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Whitstable High Street's last 'proper' greasy spoon Cafe Rio shuts to make way for Turkish and Cypriot restaurant


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A town centre’s “last proper greasy spoon cafe” has shut to make way for a new 150-seat restaurant.

The owners of Cafe Rio, in Whitstable High Street, posted signs on the windows announcing it had closed.

Cafe Rio and the former Whitstable Fish Bar will be merged to create one large restaurant unit
Cafe Rio and the former Whitstable Fish Bar will be merged to create one large restaurant unit

But critics claim its closure symbolises the “gentrification of Whitstable”.

It comes after proposals to merge the cafe and former Whitstable Fish Bar next door – which closed in 2018 – were approved last year by Canterbury City Council officers.

Residents vented their frustration and sadness on Facebook after hearing of the closure.

One wrote: “And the final nail in the coffin of gentrification in Whitstable is now complete. The last greasy spoon is gone. Sourdough, avocado and kale with chia seeds for us all with a beetroot and seaweed smoothie for the kids.”

Another called it the “last proper greasy spoon cafe in Whitstable,” with someone else adding: “A real shame. [It] was the last proper cafe in the high street.”

‘Sourdough, avocado and kale with chia seeds for us all...’

But others said there were “plenty of other great cafes in town”, including The Beach Cafe and Victoria’s.

One wrote: “There’s a few available shops up for rent so why doesn’t someone open a ‘greasy spoon cafe’ and give it a go rather than complain that there’s none left?

“Funny thing is if someone was to open another cafe the same people would complain that there’s another cafe opening.”

The new restaurant, which will offer Turkish and Cypriot cuisine, is due to take on six full-time staff and 10 part-time employees.

Lavvish, as it will be called, is preparing to open in the merged site, which is next to Mountain Warehouse and opposite M&Co.

The current rear extensions to the main properties are a mixture of felted flat roof structures, rendered and in poor condition and a pitched roof with concrete slates. Picture: Taylor Roberts Ltd
The current rear extensions to the main properties are a mixture of felted flat roof structures, rendered and in poor condition and a pitched roof with concrete slates. Picture: Taylor Roberts Ltd

The buildings require significant structural repairs, with the cafe frontage sporting cracks due to a number of interior alterations causing problems over the years.

It has “limited structural integrity” and is deemed to likely become a hazard to the public if not repaired.

Applicants say the renovations to the buildings will be based on a historic photograph which shows how they once looked in their original form in 1900.

“The current form of the units does not contribute positively to a vibrant high street,” the plans state.

“Creating one larger restaurant will invigorate the immediate visual appearance while providing a new local facility.”

Seating, the kitchen and a bar will be on the ground floor, while a prep area, further seating and customer toilets will be on the floor above.

There will also be a two-storey extension at the back of the properties.

Permission for the scheme was previously granted more than two years ago but needed to be reassessed following concerns about the position of a sewer.

A revised application was submitted in March last year and approved in August.

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