The Look and Sea Centre in Littlehampton has gone into administration.
The board of Look & Sea Ltd, including chairman Andrew McLachlan, told staff this afternoon that they would be losing their jobs. The building closed for good at 4.30pm.
Mr McLachlan told the paper he was ‘absolutely gutted’ for the ‘extremely dedicated’ staff, but that the situation was ‘unavoidable’, saying it was the lesser of two evils to close now and ‘meet our liabilities’ while there was ‘still a bit of money in the pot’ rather than spending it all trying to make it through the winter and going bust.
While the educational and heritage arm of the centre, led mainly by volunteers, had gone from ‘strength to strength’ with increasing school visits, the restaurant was not making enough money to sustain the whole operation, despite an ‘incredibly loyal customer base’, the chairman explained.
Artefacts loaned to the centre by private owners would be returned to them. The rest belong to the Littlehampton Experience, the non-for-profit organisation which runs the community arm of the centre, and these will stay in the building for now.
Bookings for Christmas meals will be cancelled, but Mr McLachlan said they had been careful not to take deposits in case this eventuality arose.
Former trustee of the Look and Sea Centre, Roger Green, said: “It is very sad news. Despite all the efforts the trustees have put in as volunteers and the hard work of all the staff down the years, the Look and Sea finds itself unable to continue.
“It was a great venue for people to meet up and enjoy a meal or chat over coffee, and that exhibition and viewing tower gave people a great insight into what Littlehampton and the harbour had to offer.”
This afternoon, Mr McLachlan released a statement which said: “It is with great sadness that the Board of Look and Sea have to inform you that we have placed the business in the hands of insolvency practitioners and must cease trading.
“The volunteer Board and their advisers have tried their utmost to avoid this outcome, but, sadly, our figures have been such that we are unable to see how we could continue to trade.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly. You will have heard in the recent past of bigger firms than Look and Sea having to close parts of their businesses owing to the very challenging retail environment. We are not immune from the same pressures, and have the added factor, in a seaside town, of being very weather-dependent.
“We wish to thank the dedicated staff team and the volunteers and also thank the loyal customers who have supported us over many years.
“Arun District Council, who own the building, have been informed and have been helpful and supportive, but the state of our finances means we are not in a position to continue.
“We have appointed White Maund to administer the closing down of the business. For further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.”