THREE more Waterfront businesses have shut – months after the manager of another closed outlet warned that the area was becoming a ‘ghost town’.
Arcadia, WYSIWYG Bar and Terrace and the Quest escape room have all ceased trading, joining Pizza Hut and The Bar which also closed in recent years.
The slides and outside pool at AquaSplash are also shut and covered in scaffolding, although a spokesperson said it was likely the facility would be fully open by the middle of the summer.
And there are fears that some of the units in what was once touted as a potential ‘world-class’ waterfront complex could remain empty, with businesses reluctant to sign leases ahead of a decision on the Jersey Development Company’s plans to redevelop the area.
In October, Gerry Larkins – who worked at Pizza Hut for two decades and was general manager when it shut during the pandemic – said the Waterfront had ‘never really bounced back after Covid’ and had become a ‘ghost town’.
Connor Burgher, town centre and events manager, said he agreed that the Waterfront was quieter than it used to be, but said he hoped it would become busier when the JDC’s Horizon flats development was complete.
He added that, if approved, the JDC’s plan to build 1,000 new homes, new indoor and outdoor swimming pools and various food and retail outlets among other amenities would also ultimately transform the area.
However, St Helier South Deputy Sam Mézec said that it was ‘totally likely’ that the Waterfront development plans were dissuading businesses from committing to a lease.
‘If it is the case that the SOJDC are finding it impossible to let premises to commercial ventures then maybe, as a States-owned entity, they should be required to consider letting out space for free to community ventures – such as an arts or entrepreneur space – if the alternative is leaving it empty,’ he added.
JDC chief executive Lee Henry said the company was ‘very aware that a couple of Waterfront businesses have not returned to their operations following the Covid-19 pandemic’.
‘The primary footfall generators for the Waterfront are Cineworld, AquaSplash and Fitness First and these businesses continue to operate. Significant local businesses are very positive about the Waterfront and we’re now in the process of creating the critical mass that will generate further footfall to support and attract new business to the area,’ he continued.
‘The Horizon development and its associated public realm will also be completed before the end of this year which will provide additional ground-floor commercial opportunities.
‘JDC is in discussion with a number of interested businesses – including new food and beverage operators – that will create additional footfall to the Waterfront area.’
Housing Minister and St Helier South Deputy David Warr – whose Cooper & Co business includes a café at Castle Quay – said he did not believe the area was a ‘ghost town’.
‘We have seen greater interest in our business in the last 12 months so maybe it just depends on the type of service you operate,’ he continued, although he added that many companies were struggling to recruit staff.
‘Another issue is the size of the premises [you operate from], which has become critical in terms of business sustainability,’ he said.
‘Sadly the market tells you very quickly whether you have got it right or wrong.’