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.