Has the Ipswich Waterfront bubble burst?

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  • #2785 Score: 0
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    Ipswi
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    Cult Cafe bar and The Brewery Tap to close?

    Ipswich Star had recently reported that The Brewery Tap is closing. See: The Brewery Tap closes. Speculation of this due to zero rating from a food hygiene inspection to a struggling enterprise. The Brewery Tap could actually be closing due to the redevelopment of the Cliff Quay former Tolly Cobbold brewery site or Upper Orwell Crossing going through the site to Cliff Lane. As more information emerges we will be able to find out!

    The company which runs The Brewery Tap, The Orwell Tap Ltd (50% owned by Georgina Keen and 50% owned by Michael Keen) fully owns the Cult Cafe Bar (formal company name Cult Cafe Ltd) – a subsidiary.

    Director Michael Keen (Mike Keen) terminated his directorship at Cult Cafe Ltd (Cult Cafe Bar) on the first day of February 2017.

    Is Cult Cafe Bar going to go the same way as The Brewery Tap? Or is Georgina Keen going to run it?

    The available data for Cult Cafe Ltd suggests the previous year, the business was making a loss, although an improvement on the previous year. By Year End July 2015 the Shareholders deficit was -£19,591 (£11,358 Cash at Bank) although this was much better than Year End July 2014 with the Shareholders deficit of –£45,960 (£5,364 Cash at Bank). It is fully possible that Year End July 2016 – due to be filed shortly in April – they might have turned it around *fingers crossed*.

    The available data for The Orwell Tap Ltd suggests the previous year, the business was making a loss, worse than the previous year. By Year End January 2016 the Shareholders deficit was -£178,703 (£3,119 Cash at Bank). Year End January 2015 the Shareholders deficit was -£141,653 (£1,007 Cash at Bank).

    Please Note: These are abbreviated accounts for small businesses so can give a skewed impression.

    Is this the decline of the Ipswich Waterfront?

    Mike Keen is a talented Chef – we shouldn’t speculate over the future of Cult Cafe as this might be safe (last years trading might be much improved) and focus might be put solely on Cult Cafe – if he is to struggle making a location on Ipswich Waterfront work, then what chance has anyone else got?

    The lack of tourist attraction is a factor as is the slow pace of development in the area; but what has to be factored in is increased competition and market saturation.

    Out of the blue new restaurants opened around town… Smokey Joes Burger Deli; Prezzo, Wagamama, Byron Burger, Coast to Coast and Cosy Club in the Buttermarket Centre; two more restaurants anticipated to join Buttermarket Centre further; Love Thy Burger, Grand Central American Bar & Grill (filling the empty Quayside unit), Bears Boutique Bowling Bar and American Restaurant (although now appears “closed until further notice” except their annoying tacky strobe-effect light is on at night), Isaacs branching out including Pizza, Mahzen Turkish Barbeque under Travelodge,  Sushi To Go; I am sure there is many I am overlooking… but not to forget there is plans for a new restaurant near New Wolsey Theatre as part of Theatre Square / Westgate Square; Spoon World Buffet (by Mighty Rhino Ltd) where the St Matthews St Iceland store was and the Queens Head pub, the two extra in Buttermarket Centre I have already mentioned.

    Is the bubble bursting already? Forget about how many visitors Ipswich gets from coaches, there just isn’t enough students at the University of Suffolk to support all these food outlets longer term.

    I was expecting the Upper Orwell Crossings to kill off Ipswich Waterfront but it seems like it has already started… with more restaurants to come, I could see at least 3 more victims in the Ipswich Waterfront part of town, and probably as many as 5 elsewhere in the town centre. A recession (perhaps from brexit) could act as a big multiplier to these figures.

    #2793 Score: 0
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    Dan
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    Could it have been the business rates revaluation?

    £10,000 is an awful lot of meals and beers to sell!!! Unbelievable! How are small businesses going to survive when this happens?

    #2795 Score: 0
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    Mart
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    I think the fate of some of the restaurants will depend on what happens when the new Buttermarket cinema opens. Will we see a significant growth in the town’s nighttime economy or will it just get spread wider and thinner, in which case some of the new restaurants may be in jeopardy as well as established ones in Grafton Way.

    The Waterfront seriously lacks an actual daytime tourist attraction, I have always thought that, yes its a nice walk on a nice day, plenty of food and drink options, but that’s it.. then what…

    I think the Brewery Tap is a very individual case. I’ve not been in there for years and if someone had asked me prior to the Star publicity about the food hygiene rating I wouldn’t have known if it was open or not. Its never been an inviting place to travel to on foot or in a car, its just too tucked away, so it doesn’t gel with or benefit from the rest of the waterfront at all. The Star did it a huge disservice I think, I assume having had the assessment they immediately sorted things out, and got it regraded, but never seemed to hear that bit…

    Cult bar has come and gone and come back before. I think part of its problem is that it gives every appearance as being just a Uni bar, and therefore puts off the casual user a bit. Although it’s amazed me when down in the area on a nice summers eve how Isaacs has a queue and Cult is almost empty. Isaacs as a venue has a lot of character but location is not much different. I do think as well that Issacs with its numerous extensions over recent years has sucked up a lot of the trade from some of the just off water front pubs and bars. Again some nights its heaving there, you walk into town a street or two away and places can be deserted.

    At the end of the day there are only so many people who want to eat and drink in Ipswich. Now that number is increasing, and will keep doing so I assume, but i think the restaurant covers must be leaping ahead in percentage terms.

    So far as the Ipswich waterfront bubble busting, it did that years ago when all the tower cranes got taken down, and worked ground to a halt…  Which begs the question, how is the January restart on the Wine Rack coming along? Still no action at all so far as I can see….

    I'm really quite cross now, so watch out!

    #2797 Score: 0
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    Dan
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    I think there will be growth in nightlife and the university needs it if they want a long-term future. Ipswich is some sort of offensive joke, you can argue the university is new, but we had basic nightlife before the university campus project began 10 years ago, and the town has been lacking it ever since.

    The dangerous gamble is everything has been bet on the university succeeding. They tried to do a cheeky upgrade as part of the Ipswich Museum I-AM project which failed and they want to move the Record Office to the Ipswich Waterfront so it can be treated as an exclusive resource for the university… likely to get the go ahead.

    This is the problem with the Ipswich Waterfront, it was a vehicle solely to launch the university… the flats are intended for student accommodation, UOS has some 5000 or so students. Ipswich Central has organised a joint venture with SaltHouse Harbour Hotel for the town’s DMO. Solely to continue the waterfront on to boost the 4-star hotel’s custom. No one is interested in spending money to bring the actual tourist element there. Sadly, so many businesses have got caught up in this including those in The Saints area of town. Some businesses are doing well, others not so.

    You are right, on a nice day it is quite nice; rest of the year not so. Isaacs is quite important for nightlife in the town, that is all.

    The council has acquired land for the long-term goal of a “heritage centre”? However, they don’t seem to be in any hurry. Perhaps they are leaving it for a future administration to pickup on it? I think they should save the money.

    No doubt they are waiting for the Star Lane gyratory remodelling and Upper Orwell Crossing before committing to the money.

    #2799 Score: 0
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    The Brewery Tap is the poor Isaacs. Isaacs boasts a good location, The Brewery Tap doesn’t. Isaacs looks smart, The Brewery Tap looks really run down. Mike Keen did a wonderful and almost impossible task; when he started out he couldn’t get a bank loan… to keep it running 8 years is an amazing achievement. I seem to recall him doing “bonds” in return for discount. I just wished he was in a position to take over the Quayside unit, it would have been perfection… much better than that Grand Central place currently there.

    Ipswich Star deliberately sabotaged them – The Orwell Tap Ltd hold the ultimate responsibility for letting standards slip – I suppose someone didn’t like them pulling down the sunny day yachts on the horizon image they are trying to portray with the Ipswich Waterfront. Isaacs probably the favoured pub in the area by many and don’t want the competition. I have heard on a really good day Isaacs turnover £10,000 to £20,000… in a day!

    Back to what I said about earlier… because they want to attract students as naturally nearby (plus it is a university building; the Cult Cafe part isn’t rated separately) they alienate everyone else. The new restaurants in Buttermarket Centre are doing 20% discounts in some for students (this really pisses me off! What about non-students? Residents of the town?! I would rather go to a flagship location with standards high even if it costs more)

    The only way the restaurants can survive is if the town attracts people from the county… such as once a week, but this cannot happen – Bury St Edmunds has improved its offering over the years and also other towns have followed suit. The county hasn’t relied on Ipswich as the main hub over the years due to Suffolk County Council’s anti-Ipswich stance. Most other counties have cities or towns which act as the big powerhouse hub.

    Something has to give as we are due another recession in 5-10 years time. All the new restaurants will go hungry in trying to attract some of the 5000 UOS students, forgetting the wider population in larger number. A 20% discount on chain restaurant food (they always try to make it up on drinks, people will just go elsewhere after their meal) only means cut corners and less tasty food. I expect a couple of restaurants to go too far and put themselves out of business.

    Personally I hate the snobbish university-exclusivity attitude. We don’t live in Cambridge or Oxford which are 90% university. What next? Relocating the county library to the waterfront?! Cult Cafe could do with a rebrand. It is difficult… it is university land and as far as I understand the restaurant is managed by the Student Union? Then the unit is effectively run by the occupier, currently Cult Cafe… So it will need to be primarily aimed at university students, but the confusing thing is a bit further up there is another cafe at the main uni building! They need to be less tea & coffee cafe… and more like a bistro! Give students discount but don’t make it primarily a uni cafe/bistro… promote it on campus and I think most students would grasp a hint that they are welcome there… likewise, people who hate students stupidity with a passion wouldn’t turn up!

    I don’t think they have started work on the Wine Rack… I hope they keep it as a tourist attraction!

    #2801 Score: 0
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    Ipswi
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    The James Hehir Building, floors 1-4 is jumping from £213,000 business rateable value to £270,000!

    £57,000 jump. This is an annual business rates bill of approx £28.5k more than at current.

    I would assume the university would demand expect a bigger contribution from Cult Cafe.

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