Plans to turn shut Exmouth town centre phone shop into new gin bar are unveiled

Plans to transform a former mobile phone shop in the centre of Exmouth into a gin bar aimed at over-30s have been revealed.

And a couple behind an award-winning and elegant drinking establishment in Exeter are hoping to run the proposed new business at 2 Rolle Street.

They say the scheme would complement other bars in the Strand, allow the building to ‘shine’ and to ‘be used to its full potential’.

The premises had been a GoMobile outlet until it shut in June last year and was once home to Clapp’s Café.

Applicants Mrs J Simonitsch and Mr M Simonitsch have asked East Devon District Council (EDDC) for change-of-use from retail to drinking establishment.

The plans state that the prospective tenants are Exmouth residents Lynsey and Nick Lowthian – who opened the successful Crocketts bar, in Upper Paul Street, Exeter, in 2017.

In correspondence within the application, Mrs Lowthian tells EDDC: “We sympathetically restored a small, bland retail space housed in a beautiful Grade II listed building back to its former glory.

“From the outset Crocketts has attracted exactly the type of customer we intended to cater for – the discerning over-30s drinker with money to spend and who is willing to spend it on quality drinks within a more sophisticated setting.”

She adds: “Having seen the impact Crocketts has had on the drinking scene in Exeter, we decided we could replicate this model elsewhere.

“We are residents of Exmouth and lovers of eating and drinking out in our home town, so we began looking for a suitable rentable space in Exmouth.”

Mrs Lowthian says of 2 Rolle Street: “The history and aesthetic of the building perfectly fit with the vision I have for it as a bar.”

She adds: “It can be sympathetically restored and my vision for it is to replicate the ‘palm café’ feel it had back when it was Clapp’s Corner.

“The bar would be housed on the ground-floor, with views onto Rolle Street and the Strand.

“Further seating will occupy the second floor, again with enviable views over the Strand gardens.

“It is our opinion and having spoken to many friends and locals, that Exmouth needs a quality bar for the over-30s – just as Exeter did – which would complement the existing bars in the Strand.

“I believe we can capture the trade of those who can be seen boarding trains bound for Lympstone or Exeter for their evening out.”

The bar would be open ‘six or seven days a week’ from 10am to midnight, Mondays to Thursdays,  to 1.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, and to 11.30pm on Sundays.

Two licensed door staff would be employed on Friday and Saturday evenings from 8pm and ‘sophisticated’ CCTV would also be in operation, say the plans.

Two full-time and five or six part-time jobs would be created.

Mrs Lowthian says the change-of-use ‘can only benefit both the local economy and the people of Exmouth’, adding: “The building itself deserves to shine and to be used to its full potential.”

A planning support statement for the bid states: “The property has a long history of food and drink use with the applicant’s parents purchasing the property as Clapp’s Cafe in December 1966.

“The Clapps had conducted a restaurant and bakery business on the site for almost 100 years and rebuilt the property in 1928.

“It has been empty for a year and is looking run-down and tired and presents an unhappy setting for people approaching the gardens,” add the proposals.

“Empty units portray an image of economic failure and this can often lead to a succession of empty units.

“A high-quality independent bar, with the added value of being run by local residents, would be a vibrant use which creates movement and vitality which in turn will draw people into the Strand.

“It is a viable use that will revitalise the building and the shopping frontage and remove the current dead area.”

Exeter-based commercial property consultants Haarer Goss marketed the premises and showed 11 prospective tenants around it between June 18 and September 20 2019.

In a letter to Mrs J Simonitsch and Mr M Simonitsch  supporting the scheme,  the specialist firm’s Iain Biddlestone says: “Almost all the applicants wanted to use the premises for café-, take-away- or restaurant-related uses, and in the absence of planning permission for such uses they did not pursue their interest.

“We have received absolutely no interest in the premises for A1 retail use and I believe it doubtful that we will see any such requirement within the foreseeable future.

“The proposed conversion of the premises to a well-appointed, prestigious gin bar of the type the applicants [as prospective tenants]established in Gandy Street, Exeter, presents a wonderful and unique opportunity to bring this property back into beneficial use.

“The post-Covid market will inevitably be a very difficult and different one with many businesses unable to reopen and I foresee empty units for some considerable time.

“Therefore, every positive opportunity to get a unit occupied and some economic benefit for the area should be exploited by the council and landowners.”

EDDC will decide the fate of the plans.

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