Cafe-bar planned for Lerwick’s Sea Road aims to capitalise on picturesque location

A local businessman is seeking planning permission to build a cafe-bar at a picturesque waterside location across the road from Tesco’s Lerwick supermarket.

Dennis Leask, former owner of the Hub and Sportswise shops on Commercial Street, is hoping to team up with Jonathan Williamson to build a single-storey, timber-clad building. The Fjara cafe-bar would have seating for up to 40 customers.

Mr Leask told this newspaper the idea would be to provide light dining, snacks and a civilised atmosphere for drinking, but it would not cater for the “pub crawl-type market”.

The cafe-bar would go on a small pocket of land opposite Tesco and the Lerwick Fire Station at Sea Road and would include a bar, kitchen, toilets and storage area.

The premises would be open from around 8am to 10pm daily and would provide employment for 10 people, a mixture of full-time and part-time.

If the SIC approves the proposal, Mr Williamson would be its day-to-day manager. Originally from Yell, he is currently employed by deluxe London foodie store Fortnum & Mason, and boasts experience locally in the form of stints working at Tesco and Captain Flint’s in Lerwick.

The food offering would include shared platters, panini, a wide range of cakes and possibly ice creams, Mr Leask said. “We’re not looking to go into a full-blown menu. We’re looking more for light drinking, casual drinking but not the pub crawl-type market.

“None of the bars in town do a lot of food, so we’d try and capitalise on that [and look at a] high level of customer service.”

The location is a popular spot for watching seals, along with other wildlife, and Mr Leask said he hoped to “play on the nature, the fantastic views”.

He continued: “Obviously Tesco has a fairly large footfall, but that whole area of the town doesn’t have services like a bar or a cafe – Nederdale, Sound, Westerloch – there’s nothing beyond the breakwater, really.”

The 57-year-old sold his previous businesses and went sailing around the world with his wife Tess a few years ago. But semi retirement was “not as easy as it sounds”, he joked, and he now feels he “needs something to do”.

No major problems were raised at a preliminary meeting with planners, but “you never know what’ll come out of the woodwork”, Mr Leask added.

A new access road opposite the fire station would be required, and it is proposed that a further 20 car parking spaces would be added to the site’s existing six.

Planners should make a decision by the middle of July. Should the answer be affirmative then a planned 30-week building programme could see the cafe-bar’s doors opened to customers next spring.


Add Your Comment
  • Martyn Fisher

    • May 30th, 2013 19:06

    Well i have always had problems with Dennis Leask’s vision for the future of Shetland. Seems the tax payer is now having to pick up the tab for the house building mess he has made of gulberwick. We are having to pay for a new road becouse it has been over developed.
    So is Mr Leask going to pay for this new road ?
    I think it could be a good idea, Folk of Sandvien should enjoy it, save them having to go into town for a beer and a meal. Might cut down on drink driving..
    However I look at Dennis Leask’s record he looks well into the future. Are Tesco’s really behind this, it just really a ploy of Tesco’s who are finding it hard to get any further planning permissions..Will he just sell it on to Tesco’s in a couple of years as a fly way of giving them a cafe..
    I am a suspicious fellow…

  • John Anderson

    • May 31st, 2013 8:22

    Seals to watch and Tesco footfall next door – genius business idea. Good luck!

  • Karen Malcolmson

    • May 31st, 2013 10:36

    This is very good news and a welcome surprise.

    Shetland is a beautiful island but lacks establishments where you can go with friends just to chat over coffee and snacks.

    The location sounds an ideal setting to relax and soak up the ambience. During my many meanders along this road I am very often mesmerised at the wonderful scenery not to mention the seals and beautiful nature at its best in all seasons.

    Would also be ideal to promote local artists, writers etc and a perfect setting for late night music during the summer months.

  • David Spence

    • May 31st, 2013 11:27

    I agree, the potential site for this new cafe is good (when the weather is good)………but Karen, I wonder if the seals will think this once ‘ more humans ‘ start to congregate at the suggested site (not including the building works prior).

    I have seen the odd seal ‘ basking ‘ on the rocks near the sea just next to where Tesco’s is situated, and the view of Breiwick Bay and Bressay Isle would make a good ‘ backdrop ‘ for the proposed Cafe.

    I am just wondering though how it would stand up to a strong southerly gale being so exposed to the elements, and customers trying to get access too it lol

    I would also hope that the design and looks of the cafe would be inline with the beautiful scenery and not look too out of place? (I would be inclined to give it a rustic, wooden cabin appearance (despite there being no tree’s in Shetland….but lol)

  • JohnTulloch, Arrochar

    • May 31st, 2013 11:54

    Surely the SIC planning dept is there to ensure developers don’t make a “mess” of a district with inappropriate developments. Also, if the developer provides improved roads he would have to charge higher prices per plot or house and if there are sufficient houses to require a road upgrade there would be sufficient council tax and other tax payers to be entitled to the upgrade from council finances.

    This cafe bar, of course, may require a road upgrade, too – possibly with street lighting if it is to become a venue for “late night music” to prevent the over-indulged from faain ower da peerie daek among da stanes.

    Such improvements, of course, would be at tax payers’ expense and would benefit the ultimate selling price.

  • Jenny Henry

    • May 31st, 2013 12:18

    David, there used to be a residential caravan or two sited where the cafe is proposed and they seemed to manage fine wi any gales… and they were sometimes even ‘venues for late night music’ and mony a fun wis had!

    The seals will adapt like they’ve adapted to every other construction project that’s taken place out the Sea Road over the last decade or so.

    I think this is a great idea – no sure about the Fjara name though, it should have something to do wi ‘Taing’ as I’m fairly sure that’s the name of this area of the Sea Road.

  • David Spence

    • May 31st, 2013 14:07

    Not so sure Jenny, as ‘ Fjara ‘ is ‘ Beach ‘ in the Icelandic language, which seems quite appropriate.

    However, given our Scandinavian heritage, ‘ Strand ‘ is, I believe, norwegian for ‘ Beach ‘….so may be this would be more appropriate? lol I may be wrong, but I think the word ‘ Taing ‘ is norwegian for ‘ Taking ‘, but as I have said, I may be wrong?

    You could be correct in the seals adapting to the changes, lets hope this is the case and the new venue doesn’t scare them away lol

    It reminds me of the days when the Marts had the odd get together with music and drink all round and everybody having a good time.

    As for this proposed venue being a place for dancing etc. I think it would come under strong planning regulations due to the proximity of ‘ Taing House ‘ as well as residents in Sandveien and surrounding houses?

  • fraser cluness

    • June 1st, 2013 9:21

    why the obcession on hocking dead words out of the past? Can no-one here think of new names for things? We need to move on and leave the old dead words in the history books.

    I thnk its a good idea, i’d have the building at the sea then parking behind it, then on bad weather days you would get some shelter by the building its self.

    I head (so your never sure if its right) that Gulberwick is the ‘mess’ it is because if the planers not accepting Mr leasks forward plan years ago, thus it was then done bit by bit in the end. If they were maybe more forward thinking at the begining then it may have been better. but in all i dont think its that bad.

  • stephen shirmer

    • June 2nd, 2013 15:29

    What another café , great idea in can go with the growing selection of cafes which abound in Lerwick, nothing like healthy competition ?

  • Sandy McMillan

    • June 3rd, 2013 0:04

    Would it not be more sense if the Council opened the watering holes at Clickimin and Grantfield, or is Dennis and Co, going to add this well needed amenity to the side or near by his Glory hole of a Public Bar, and destroy another public beauty spot, I was of the understanding that no more destruction out the sea road was to take place, and by the way Lerwick certainly does not need another PUB


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.