Heyday hopes for newest owner of seaside Southwold eatery, The Sail Loft

Jonathan Nicholson shakes hands with Kate Adey, joined by another former co-owner Robert Adey and Jo

Jonathan Nicholson shakes hands with Kate Adey, joined by another former co-owner Robert Adey and Jonathan Carman (left), of Fennel - Credit: Archant

The new year started with a new venture for a Suffolk chef and restaurateur.

Jonathan Nicholson, who owns The Bell At Sax’ hotel and restaurant, in Saxmundham, recently acquired the leasehold for The Sail Loft in Southwold.

The former operations manager of Southwold Pier hopes to convert the first floor into five guestrooms and staff quarters, in line with the planning permission already granted.

The building in Ferry Road, known as ‘The Dutch Barn’, dates back to the mid-19th century, and housed a number of maritime operations, including a sail loft, before being acquired by the military and used during the war for packing parachutes and making camouflage.

In the 1950s it became a dining venue known as The Old Dutch Barn, before another incarnation as the Casa Mia piano bar in 2006. Following its closure, the building stayed empty until 2015, when it was taken over by a consortium of five people, who launched the Sail Loft restaurant.

Mr Nicholson said: “The history of this place from its heyday is something to aim for once again. Southwold deserves to have an exciting, informal, dining scene with relaxed modern places, showcasing fabulous local produce.”

From viewing to completion, the acquisition took less than a month and involved local agent Jonathan Carman, of Halesworth’s Fennel surveyors, and solicitor Peter Britten, partner at Mears, Hobbs and Durrant.

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The management team, including Kate Adey and Verien Wiltshire, stayed to help Mr Nicholson over the Christmas period. He hopes the addition of guestrooms will provide a significant boost to the future of the venue, making a “big difference” to visitors from further afield.

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