From the business desk: Maverick Phil is man with crazy vision

WH 160414 Opening of Southern Pavilion, on Worthing pier, after three years of being vacant. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140417-000948001
WH 160414 Opening of Southern Pavilion, on Worthing pier, after three years of being vacant. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140417-000948001

Six months ago I stood in a dark, dingy and derelict old nightclub, with the paint peeling off the walls.

Stood next to me was Phil Duckett, developer of this sorry-looking establishment – the Southern Pavilion – grinning like a Cheshire cat and clutching drawings of his grand vision.

Phil regaled me with his sales pitch, how he wanted to create a ‘wow’ factor multi-purpose wedding and events space, complete with café, transforming this forgotten corner of Worthing into something the town could be proud of.

Wow, he must be mad, I thought – especially when he told me how this magic act would be performed within a matter of months.

I can’t say I would have given him favourable odds of success but on Wednesday, as I revisited the Southern Pavilion for its grand opening, what greeted me was sensational.

Gone were the boarded-up windows and overbearing old nightclub stage, gone was the peeling paint and in its place stood a light-filled, glorious open space – depicting to the last detail the drawings Phil had shown me some six months previously.

And every last detail, from the air conditioning to the sweeping oak flooring, has been carried out by local companies. It is an excellent advertisement for the ‘shop local’ ethos our papers have been plugging for the past few weeks and is to be commended.

What Worthing now has is an excellent venue, with outstanding 360-degree sea views, which Phil believes is the ‘best views on the south coast’.

The art deco look, which reflects the building’s history, has been done tastefully, without being tacky, and now all is left is for Phil to open the doors to the public, and let them be the judges.

While it is very early days, the Pavilion has already received numerous bookings for weddings and exhibitions, many of which were secured in the project’s infancy, with Phil and his team showing brides to be around what essentially was a disused nightclub. But they all bought in to the vision.

There will inevitably be some who do not buy into the end of the pier wedding concept. Critics have already noted how brides with their lovingly manicured wedding hair may not fancy the windy walk down to the venue, and what would happen should the pier be closed, as it has been this winter, several times.

But you cannot doubt Phil’s confidence. He is a maverick Mancunian, always up for a joke. But underneath I now know he is a man that delivers.

And let’s not forget he has also run an ice rink at the same time!

Oli Poole

Business reporter