St Leonards: Devastation as 'beloved' cafe closes

A petition has been set up to try and get a well-loved St Leonards café reopened.

Babilicious, based in Marina, was based within Azur on St Leonards seafront, which recently shut its doors last month after 16 years due to a ‘long-running dispute’ between the company which managed it, Azur Events Limited, and the leasehold owner Sea Change Sussex.

Regulars at the coffee shop said the venue had become a ‘beloved community hub’, with one customer, Indra Alison, launching an online petition.

She said: “I am just one of the many hearts broken by the closure of Babilicious, our community hub in St Leonards. This place was more than just a building; it was a sanctuary, a beacon of joy and camaraderie for everyone, regardless of their origins. It was filled with laughter and life, with people living their best lives.

“It was here that I found solace from loneliness and formed connections that have enriched my life beyond measure. Here, I made friends who became family. The closure has left an irreplaceable void in our lives. Many others like me are mourning the loss of this safe haven where we felt seen, heard, and most importantly - not alone.

“According to data from Age UK (2018), over 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone; many experience intense loneliness. Community hubs like ours play an essential role in combating this isolation by providing opportunities for social interaction.

“We are absolutely devastated. We are still meeting there outside and now bringing our own drinks. Very few people stop there now because it’s not open.

“Our plea is simple but urgent: We need our community hub back - not just for us but also for future generations who deserve to experience its warmth and inclusivity.”So far, more than 200 people have signed the online petition, which can be found at

Barbara Brett, from Babilicious, said she was ‘gutted’ over the venue’s closure.

She added: “I wanted to create a place where people could come, have a coffee and meet in a safe place. I want to keep doing it but I do not have another venue to go into. I would like to be down towards Marina and west St Leonards but there are no units available.”

Azur, which incorporated Teddy's Cocktail Bar and Grill, was a popular choice for wedding celebrations, birthday parties and anniversaries.

According to Sea Change, Azur failed to keep up with rent payments under the lease.

Sea Change then brought forward a winding-up order early last year, saying its decision at the time was a ‘last resort action’ and ‘not a decision it had taken lightly’.

The move left the venue’s future in doubt, with David Thorpe-Tracey, director of Azur, saying more than 45 functions had already been booked there for 2023/24.

He said since it opened in 2008, Azur had been a hub for the community, supporting businesses, community groups and charities, and providing award-winning customer service to thousands of residents and visitors from outside the area.

Sea Change Sussex said it had tried to work hard with the firm both pre- and post-Covid, allowing additional time for payments and granting rent reductions during the lease’s assignment from predecessor Azur Marina Ltd during that company’s liquidation in 2016.

A hearing was then set at the High Court in London for March 1 last year to discuss insolvency proceedings but the hearing was adjourned to a later date.

An out-of-court settlement between both parties was then reached.

Sea Change Sussex said it will commission surveys to assess the condition of the property and identify any necessary works before the the venue is on the market to seek a suitable operator.

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