Train travellers have reacted with dismay to news that The Runaway, the long-established cafe at Lewes Railway Station, has failed to have its lease renewed.
It means the popular venue must close on March 2, despite more than 5,000 people signing a petition supporting it.
Director Jacqueline Elsey was devastated. “We’re in total shock,” she said on Wednesday after hearing via email from Southern Railway’s agents that the cafe’s tender had not been successful.
Lewes MP Norman Baker said: “I know many people will be disappointed by the decision not to renew Jackie’s lease and I am sorry for her that Southern has taken this decision. Given the level of public support for Jackie and her team, I hope Southern are very sure that they have made the right decision and the new leaseholder will be able to live up to or, although this will be a very tough challenge, surpass the high standards that she has set for many years, because if not, I know users of the station will make their views very clear.”
A Southern spokesman said: “Following a competitive tender, the Flying Coffee Bean Ltd has been awarded the lease to operate Lewes Station cafe. Passengers told us they did not want a national coffee chain for the site, and so the Flying Coffee Bean fits the bill perfectly.
“Their bid included substantial investment in the unit, with plans to not only offer a full range of refreshments, but also to provide an outlet for passengers to purchase and take home the locally sourced products the cafe uses such as bacon, eggs and cheese etc, suppliers known as the Friends of FCB.”
It already runs units at Brighton and Woking stations and is soon to open another at Haywards Heath. Southern’s Development Director, Alex Foulds, said: “We believe we’ve secured the best deal for Lewes passengers and we hope they will come to the same conclusion once they have sampled the new offering from the Flying Coffee Bean.”