A RUNDOWN seafront sun shelter is set to undergo a £300,000 makeover to be turned into a modern bar and eatery.
Antonia Waite, 28, from Leigh, expects to sign a lease on the locally-listed landmark in The Leas after Southend Council selected her as preferred bidder for the revamp.
It is a first venture into running a restaurant for Antonia, who works in her father’s accountancy firm.
However, Antonia comes from good stock from the trade: Her grandparents opened Tomassi’s in Southend High Street in the Thirties.
Antonia, who is the daughter of former council leader Anna Waite, hopes to start building work in late summer, if a planning application and the lease are finalised.
Provisionally called Seaside Rock, she hopes the venue will open from 8am to 10pm, and plans to preserve the majority of the original building.
New Leas of life: Computer image of venue at night
Iconic: Proposed cafe by day
She said: “I have waited tables in my grandparents’ restaurant and have the experience of seeing them run the business, but have never run my own catering establishment.
“We are looking at a lighttouch design to preserve and enhance the locally-listed building.
“New doors will go in, but we will keep the original windows and frames. There will be no dramatic changes. Inside there will be a kitchen and bar in the mid section, it will be an open kitchen.”
The front of the venue will include open-air seating, with the possibility of music, such as violin performances, while people eat. The shelter would serve cafe food and brunches throughout the day, with a different menu in the evening.
Antonia also hopes to make ice cream there and serve a range of sundaes.
Preferred bidder: Antonia with Gerard Biagioni of Dedman Grey who marketed the site
She added: “This is always something I have wanted to do and it is a lovely building.
“If we get the planning permission and start building in late summer, we aim to be open for spring 2015.”
The shelter has been unused for a number of years and fell into disrepair after years of use by drunks and homeless people.
Alan Richards, Southend Council’s group asset manager, said: “The council received some excellent expressions of interest for the redevelopment of the shelter and has now selected a preferred bidder with whom, subject to contract negotiations, we are progressing with positively.”
Cafe owner Ray Holden fears the new eatery could signal the end of the popular Arches eateries.
Mr Holden, who runs the Fountain cafe in Palmeira Arches, Western Esplanade, said: “I feel another food outlet in our area will see the end to these iconic cafes.
“Even though our summer last year was the best in recent years, the whole year to date has been very bad.
“Obviously the weather pays a big part in our trade, but in recent years we have seen the toilet block, Toulouse restaurant, and the new Beach hut open, these along with other restaurants in the area affects, the trade at the Arches.
“I would say most seafront traders are struggling to make ends meet again due to the bad weather and to the extortionate rents we are asked to pay by our council, which own the Arches leases.
“I find it unfair that we are not allowed to have permanent structures so we can operate properly in the winter months and other businesses are popping up all around us with permanent structures, toilets and peppercorn rents.
“Before too long there will be 13 empty arches the council will have on its books to sell.”