Petition backs Lewes Railway Station cafe in lease wrangle

Local people have jumped to the defence of a hugely popular Lewes café after it emerged its future might be in doubt.

The lease is about to expire on The Runaway Café at Lewes Station and train operator Southern Railway is demanding that the outlet tenders for a new one.

The Runaway has appealed for support from customers and says the deadline is November 29. A petition at the venue registered “several hundred” signatures within two days of being launched this week.

It was established in 1988 and has been serving the commuters of Lewes since then.

The attention to detail when it involves a customer was gloriously demonstrated when the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was supplied at short notice and at her request with one of the outlet’s legendary bacon sandwiches.

Director Jacqueline Elsey said: “Southern could have simply renewed our lease but it says it wants to test the market. It’s a bit like a landlord saying ‘I’ve got a very good tenant in my flat, but I’d like to try out a new one’.

“We hoped the lease would have been renewed outright because we work so hard to provide a service to our customers.

“I’m as passionate today about the cafe as when we opened nearly a quarter of a century ago.”

Southern Railway’s call for a new lease agreement means The Runaway is having to make a proposal with ideas on how it operates in future to the train operator.

Jacqueline said: “We’ve suggested introducing some more contemporary ideas to our traditional favoured ones.

“We will use even more locally sourced foods in addition to Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance products.

“We will expand our menu to incorporate more international snacks and dishes.”

Joyce Bell, prospective Lib Dem candidate for East Sussex County Council, said she was shocked to hear the cafe was under threat. “All of us who treasure this enjoyable feature of Lewes need urgently to campaign to retain it,” she said.

Lewes Town Councillor Petrina Kingham echoed her views. She said: “Lewes Railway Station has its own unique character as does The Runaway, a place of retreat for the weary traveller, where classical music soothes the soul. While I appreciate the economics, it would be a great sadness if Southern Railway chose a homogenous franchise to replace this precious local business.”

You can pledge support for The Runaway by adding your name to the petition on the premises, emailing (with a copy to or by writing to Chris Burchell, Southern Railway, Go-Ahead House, 26-28 Addiscombe Road, Croydon, CR9 5GA.