‘Pedestrianise the high street to save Margate businesses’ says Fez boss

Fez micro-pub owner Phil Evans

By Jodie Nesling

A Margate publican has reignited calls to pedestrianise the lower High Street in a bid to encourage European-style, ‘café culture.’

Phil Evans, owner of quirky micropub Fez, says outdoor space for drinking and eating could transform the area and encourage footfall along the entirety of the street.

He said: “I see people visit the town and stop at the seafront,  their eyes are not directed up to the High Street as there’s always traffic and congestion. Drivers speed up there and we have witnessed many accidents at the junction of New Street – especially with delivery scooters.

“Having tables and chairs outside will create a buzz and atmosphere that’s akin to European cafe culture. We need as much help as we can get at the moment. Not being able to open and then the price of beer going up by as much as 42% in some cases has been tough.”

Phil, who taught ceramics at the University of Creative Arts in Canterbury, took on the popular hostelry in 2015 after being made redundant and has since attracted legions of tourists and regulars alike.

As with many in the leisure trade the small business has suffered during lockdown – especially with no outdoor seating space. He said: “I look at the bottom on the High Street and there are eight businesses selling food and drink that could really benefit from having tables and chairs. We just want it to be the same as the top half so delivery and emergency vehicles can still access the area.”

The move has been mooted several times over the past decade and was also part of the projects looked at by the Margate Town Deal, which recently secured £22m Government funding to regenerate the town.

Part of the The Town Investment Plan submitted to the Government echoes traders’ feedback and states that despite a large area of Margate being coverable within a 15-minute walk “connections around the town are not always clear, simple, or inviting.”

Thanet’s 2019-2020 footfall survey reveals the most high traffic areas are Marine Drive, the High Street and Northdown Road, with footfall from the station along Marine Drive increasing over the year. Northdown Road and the town centre areas are currently disconnected. 

In  2010 Kent County Council commissioned the Jacobs Report which sought to examine how to make the town more pedestrian friendly and foregrounded many of the concerns which have been raised again recently. Currently the Town Deal has earmarked some £5m for infrastructure projects which may include pedestrianisation.

But Phil says launching a petition would help keep the project alive and in the minds of the authorities despite the move being seen as favourable.

He explained “Everyone I have spoken to including the council has been really supportive but we started the petition to get things moving. I first had 600 signatures on a paper version but have since found out it needs to be online.”

The Fez re-opened last month and Phil is keen to welcome back punters and live music nights. To sign the petition visit facebook.com/Fez-Margate-1004144649627700