Thousands of people have rallied to support Dorset based Chef Mark Hix after he was ordered to tear down an illegal decked seating area at his Lyme Regis restaurant.
As of today 7,257 (and counting) have signed a petition in support of Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen chef, and retain the decking area which he says may force the closure of his restaurant putting a number of jobs at risk.
The Oyster & Fish House was one of a number of restaurants in Lyme Regis that were granted temporary permission from Lyme Regis Town Council to utilise outside space during and after the Covid pandemic. The end of this temporary period is 31st March 2023.
The land where the decking has been constructed is owned by Lyme Regis Town Council, it was reported at a council meeting that “The land does not lend itself to any other purpose and because of its incline was not used by the public”.
Mr Hix has been trying to reach an agreement with Lyme Regis Town Council to agree to rent the land on a permanent basis, however the members of Lyme Regis Town Council have decided that they would like the decking removed.
The petition was launched to ‘Save Mark Hix’s Decking’ last week which has received thousands of signatures and comments.
Writing on Instagram Hix said that the signatures numbered more “than the population of Lyme Regis”.
He wrote: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We never take your support for granted. Maybe we won’t have to chain ourselves to the railings after all?”
John Wright, town clerk at Lyme Regis Town Council, said permission for the deck had been refused as it was only meant to be temporary and there were concerns it encroached onto land used for public gardens.
Wright said: “The council granted temporary permission for the Oyster and Fish House, and several other local businesses, to provide additional outside seating on council-owned land as part of the government’s request for local councils to support the hospitality industry through the pandemic. Initially, that permission was granted for one year.
“This was subsequently extended for a second year. More recently, the council has agreed to extend that temporary permission for a further six months until 31 March 2023. All of these permissions were granted at a nominal cost to help support the Oyster and Fish House and others.
“The town council has considered a request from the Oyster and Fish House to make the outside seating area permanent and has decided not to agree to this because the public gardens should be kept free of commercial development for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors. The initial request was only agreed by the town council as a temporary Covid-related business support measure.”
The Oyster & Fish House’s official statement reads: ‘A petition has been set up to save the deck and shared with us to spread the word.
‘If enough people sign it ahead of 8th February, it will be discussed at the next council meeting on 15th February.
‘The area that this deck is on was a wasted piece of grass adjoining the restaurant that has never been used in the 14 years of The Oyster & Fish House being there.
‘We very much doubt it was used before we opened either.’The current deck does not obscure any views for anyone in the garden, to the contrary, it offers a space to sit and enjoy the view, and also for parents to safely watch their children in the mini-golf.
‘We have had so much feedback saying that it enhances the area, and also gives people a safe space to eat if they do not feel comfortable indoors post-pandemic.
‘An annual rent of a proposed £14.5k would be paid to the council but they don’t seem to be bothered by that.
‘We are all very angry and upset in equal measure. We all work so hard to create a wonderful restaurant with great food and service.
‘We don’t want to see the deck go and if it affects the business as badly as it could we also don’t want to lose our jobs.