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Venus Cafe at Blackpool Sands is set to close in January 2023.
The Venus Company, which has four beach cafe locations across the South Hams and Paignton, has announced that from January 2023, the Venus Beach Cafe at Blackpool Sands will close for good after "commercial terms to continue could not be agreed to mutual advantage".
In 1995, Michael Smith and his wife Louisa Newman, together with Lee Porter, opened the doors of its first Venus Café at Blackpool Sands. They set up a beach café, take-away, and shop on the site of the original ‘The Venus Tea Hut’, a small wooden hut selling tea and ice-creams that Louisa’s pioneering mother, Lady Newman started in 1958.
Michael Smith and his wife Louisa Newman, together with Lee Porter
The beach and the land surrounding it is still owned by Louisa's family, ever since Richard Newman bought the estate in 1797, with the current owner being Sir Geoffrey Newman, Louisa's brother. The estate has been leasing the beach site to The Venus Company for nearly thirty years.
In November 2022, Sir Geoffrey has plans to set up a new Limited Company business venture on Blackpool Sands, which he will operate under the Blackpool Sands brand.
Louisa Newman reminisces: “My father Sir Ralph Newman ran a wine merchant on St James’ Street, London, and Blackpool Sands was our family’s summer holiday residence. When I was three-years-old, we moved to Blackpool Sands permanently, where I grew up. I have so many fond memories – it was an idyllic childhood.
"My mother was inspirational and ahead of her time, setting up the new café and shop business in an old wooden shed on the beach, where I loved to help her serve the customers and sell our fresh home-grown vegetables and homemade marmalade and Ann’s handmade crafts.”
She adds: “Michael, Lee, and I work so well together. We wanted to set up the Venus Cafe in 1995 with the same philosophy as that of my parents keeping the beach unspoiled, serving the best, locally sourced high-quality ingredients with many of our dishes coming from the nearby land or sea, making it more sustainable.”
Michael Smith, MD of The Venus Company, said: “It’s a sad time, particularly as Blackpool Sands is the birthplace of The Venus Company brand and where Louisa grew up.” He adds: “Circumstances have changed substantially since 1995, and although we were offered the opportunity to work with Geoffrey’s new limited company, we felt his proposed business model did not allow our brand to flourish and develop and, therefore, made the decision not to go forward based on commercial viability; it simply was just not for us.”
Venus says it is "constantly striving to improve its environmental performance" and banned plastic straws 20 years ago in a bid to reduce plastics on the beach and in the oceans. It was the first company to use fully home compostable cups and lids, (zero plastic) and to ban single-use plastic drinks bottles and water.
The latest innovation is the introduction of fully home compostable and biodegradable palm plates, rubbish bags, cake wrapping film, and cling film at all of their beach cafes, reducing single-use plastic dramatically. Venus works with like-minded sustainable companies, such as Two Farmers crisps – the only UK crisp company to use home compostable bags.
Michael explains: “Our mission is to be the greenest café, and It’s fundamental that we stay true to the ethos and values of our established Venus trademark, loving the beach®. Our brand is all about sustainability and we gave up plastic straws in 2000, and straws altogether in 2002. We love the beach and water as a habitat, so taking care of it is integral to our business philosophy.
"Our business remains in a healthy strong position to weather the upcoming economic and supply storm and will continue to grow and expand the Venus company with like-minded landlords.”
Louisa comments: “I am very sad to be leaving my family beach. Hopefully, we are leaving a firm environmental footprint for others to follow. This is where it all started, and we still have our three other popular Venus beach cafes to run at Bigbury-on-Sea, East Portlemouth, and newly acquired Broadsands in Paignton with more in the pipeline.
"All our full-time staff, many of whom have been with us for over 20 years, will remain under the Venus brand and although it’s the end of an era, I’m really excited about the future of the Venus Company.
“Blackpool is moving in a different direction to Venus but will remain in our hearts as our birthplace. I wish my brother and nephew every success with their new business plans.”
Venus operates its beach café business across Devon all year round including recently acquired dog-friendly Broadsands, Paignton, Bigbury-on-Sea located opposite the iconic Burgh Island, and East Portlemouth, which opens throughout the summer season.
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