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Prime Torquay pub may be Wetherspoons target

By Herald Express  |  Posted: November 09, 2012


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A PRIME Torquay pub is understood to be on the verge of being taken over by pub giants Wetherspoons.

Churchills in Babbacombe closed its doors on Sunday night and the business has not reopened.

On Tuesday it was understood meetings were taking place about the management of the establishment.

Leaseholder of the pub Russell Martin (pictured) said talks had taken place with chains but said no deals had been done.

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Wetherspoons has confirmed it is looking for a site in the Babbacombe area but said it could not discuss specific locations.

The pub chain already has The Vigilance in Brixham, The Isaac Merritt and The Talk of the Town in Paignton, the Green Ginger and the The London Inn in Torquay and the Richard Hopkins in Newton Abbot.

A spokesman for Wetherspoons said: "It is an area that we are interested in but we are unable to comment on individual sites."

Mr Martin said: "I have been contacted by a couple of chains. There have been words but no contracts and no-one has made any offers. I still have to speak to my landlord."

He said he had taken the decision to shut up Churchills because trade was simply so quiet at the moment.

"I am not one for sitting around waiting for someone to walk in. Basically, we do all our business at the weekend," said Mr Martin.

He took on the business in September 2011 opening a sports memorabilia attraction in the venue.

Originally from London, the businessman used his enormous personal collection of autographs to create the Legends Experience at the pub.

He said: "The museum has not been a great success down in Devon and I am talking with people to take it to London or Manchester to the new Olympic centre or a few football clubs so I have taken the museum out and the place needs to be refurbished so it is closed for the time being.

"We have no bookings or functions that are affected it is just basically very quiet so it suits us to be shut at the moment.

"We are saving money. We might reopen around Christmas but that is even down on last year. Business has been terrible.

"I would rather the four people in my pub go to another up there and create a bit of atmosphere.

"I think if one of the big chains should take it, it would be good for Babbacombe, to be honest."

Landlord Tony Carter, who owns the Churchills building, said he was not currently aware of what was happening with the venue.

"I have been trying to make contact with this chap and will be sorting it out in due course," he said.

Arthur Christian, chairman of Babbacombe Bay Business Improvement District, said they had heard 'lots of rumours' about the site.

Mr Christian said: "It is just a shame, that the people up there were not able to make a go of it. It is a great prospect and I hope whoever takes it on will be able to make it a vibrant busy place as it has been in the past.

"It has lots going for it in terms of location and I hope whoever comes in can make it work.

"People in the business community will give it every support as they would for anybody who comes into the area.

"I am sure the BID will help business starting up in the area. I have no view one way or the other on a chain taking on the premises.

"We want businesses to come in, do well and contribute to the local economy and bring people into the area. We are waiting for the right people to do that.

"It is going to take some investment because if people think they can sit back and people will just roll in the doors they are sadly mistaken.

"It would just be great to see somebody in there making a go of it."

The pub has had an eventful past. Before it reopened last year it had remained empty for more than a year after the previous licensee closed the doors on the business.

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  • Bleach  |  November 14 2012, 6:48PM

    Babbacombe Downs is a prime site, some of the best views in the country. It's vastly under exploited as a premier tourist attraction. There was an opportunity to have a restaurant run by a Michelin chef on the Downs but Arthur helped spike that one. He seems to be diplomatically indifferent to Wetherspoons, a low end restaurant chain that's entirely unsuitable for this location. Arthur's problem is that he's a middle sized fish in a small pond and he has little experience or understanding outside of what, with the best will in the world, is a parochial community and he's blinkered to the potential that Babbacombe Downs has. It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful spots on the south coast but it's populated by down market hotels catering for pensioners and budget coach parties. I've had relatives stay in these hotels. They're still living in the 70s, they're not great. Babbacombe Downs could do so much better but a Wetherspoons? It's like opening a McDonalds in Buckingham Palace. He's not hated, he's a decent bloke. He's misguided.

  • gordonbennett  |  November 08 2012, 10:09PM

    This place is closed due to lack of support and has failed....how come it is a prime site and headline news ???? Is this paper is so short of stories it runs this?

  • ranger678  |  November 08 2012, 6:29PM

    What has any of this got to do with Arthur Christian hes not chairman of anything and being the most hated person in St Marychurch he never will be.

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