Exmouth’s Harbour View Cafe to close later this year
PUBLISHED: 15:34 10 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:51 13 March 2017
An iconic café on Exmouth seafront is to close its doors at the end of August, it has been announced.
The Harbour View Café occupies part of the site on Queen’s Drive which has been earmarked by East Devon District Council (EDDC) for redevelopment.
The café, which has stood on the seafront since 1898 and has been run by Dawn Hirst’s family for 40 years, has been operating in recent years on temporary extensions to its licence after the council’s initial plans hit delays.
However, the last extension will come to an end on August 31, and Dawn has been told by the council no further extension will be granted.
She is now trying to find alternative premises so the business can continue, and says she has enquired about EDDC’s plans for the reintroduction of a café at Orcombe Point, but been told that process is still at a very early stage.
She said: “We have got 19 staff and we’re desperately trying to look for somewhere to move to, where we can take the staff and customers with us.
“At least if we still felt part of the seafront it wouldn’t hurt quite so much but I’m not sure where we could move to.
“There are places in the town but they are small and we couldn’t really offer the same service.
“Hopefully something will turn up but it won’t be the same.”
Since the news was posted on the café’s Facebook page, Dawn has been flooded with comments from supporters.
She said: “The reaction from people, it made me cry to read some of the stories. There are lots of very personal experiences of the café and what it has meant to people over the years, and that’s what really hit home for me.
“It does mean a lot to read the support, but I’m also very sad that these people feel they are losing something as well.
“I am very grateful for the support, but it’s still very sad.”
Dawn says customers have questioned why the closure of the café has been announced when EDDC has not yet secured a developer or drawn up confirmed plans for ‘phase three’ of its planned redevelopment, the phase which would include the café site.
She also said that August 31 would not be considered the end of the café’s summer season, which does not normally wind down until October.
She said: “I think people want to know why, when there are no plans in place, we are closing in August.”
An EDDC spokesperson said: “Change isn’t always easy to accept but Exmouth is a growing town with residents and visitors whose desires and expectations are changing as well.
“The council is committed to giving townspeople and visitors more and better attractions and facilities and that includes the Queen’s Drive site. Exmouth is the biggest town in Devon and it is starting to up its game.
“The café operators have known for two years that the Council is taking the site back and we have during that time supported them with a further season extension and free rent. We did this so that they have time to prepare to leave and plan for the future of their business.
“Mamhead Slipway, the Strand, the Premier Inn and M&S are all signs that Exmouth is embracing change and benefiting from new assets. A café at Orcombe Point could be next.
“Meanwhile Queen’s Drive investment is getting back on track. When the council takes the Harbour View Café site back at the end of August we will also be preparing to move the road and car park and consultation will be underway on the water sports centre.
“For the Harbour View Café site in particular, once the council has it back, then we have the freedom to consider the best way forward and the best timing to bring a new and fresh eating place to what is one of the finest locations in the South West.”
EDDC previously announced that the tenancy of the nearby Exmouth Fun Park, run by Chris Wright, will also end on August 31 this year.
It has previously taken back possession of the previous site of the Jungle Fun and Arnold Palmer Golf attraction, the former site of Exmouth Model Railway and the Carriage Café, and DJ’s Café.