Celebrity chef Rick Stein has performed an eleventh hour U-turn after pulling out of plans to open a seafront restaurant in Eastbourne this week, blaming the Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
Council bosses have been left devastated by the restaurateur’s shock decision which was communicated to the authority on Wednesday.
Although the council has not named Mr Stein, the Herald understands his organisation was the operator chosen by council tourism bosses to run a destination restaurant – being built at a cost of £1.2 million – at the Wish Tower site.
Sources revealed the council was anticipating announcing the deal next week after a Stein family board meeting today (Friday) was due to rubber stamp the move.
But on Wednesday Mr Stein’s advisers contacted the council to say the deal was off and blamed the result of last week’s EU referendum.
A spokesperson at Eastbourne council said the authority would not be naming who the successful operator was meant to be but did issue a statement saying officials and councillors were disappointed.
The spokesperson also said, “The council was in advanced negotiations with a preferred operator for the new Wish Tower Restaurant. These discussions followed a procurement exercise where three potential suppliers had been shortlisted.
“In light of the result of the EU referendum the preferred operator has decided to withdraw from the process.
“The council will not make any further statement pending a re-evaluation of all the options open to the authority at this time.”
Mr Stein has been rumoured to be interested in the Wish Tower site since the council first announced it would be looking to open a signature restaurant at the seafront landmark.
He also visited the town on two occasions last year and the Herald understands that when the tender was put out to find an operator, his name was mentioned along with fellow celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Various restaurant firms and individuals put in an official tender but the Herald understands it was only Mr Stein and another well-known fish restaurant operator that were among the three shortlisted.
Earlier this month the council’s Wish Tower Board chose Mr Stein after a ‘superb’ presentation by his team and the deal was forging ahead until Wednesday’s shock revelation.
A spokesperson for Mr Stein said the star did not want to comment on the latest development.
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