A popular café which once served Princess Diana is to close.

The Runaway café at Lewes Station has been a fixture for a morning brew for commuters for the past 24 years.

But late last year Southern Rail decided to put the lease, which was due to expire, out to tender.

Despite a petition with hundreds of signatures to save the business, plus support from Norman Baker MP, the rail firm has now decided the lease will go elsewhere.

A spokesman for the company said: “Following a competitive tender, the Flying Coffee Bean Ltd has been awarded the lease to operate Lewes Station café.

“Passengers told us they did not want a national coffee chain for the site, and so the Flying Coffee Bean fits the bill perfectly.

“The Flying Coffee Bean already runs units at Brighton and Woking stations and is soon to open another at Haywards Heath, proving that Southern continues to be a place where small businesses can grow.”

But The Argus can reveal Flying Bean Coffee is part of DP the Drinks People, a national company with offices in London and Birmingham.

Shock decision

The Runaway owner Jackie Elsey said staff were in shock over the decision and feared the new café would not be able to provide the same flexible service.

She said: “We thought we would be ok with the petition but we were given no sign.

“Southern just want to rubber-stamp everywhere with chain stores. It is a great pity and a big loss not just for us but for what we are trying to do for Lewes.

“We have tried very hard. We open every morning at 5.45am, even though we are meant to open at 7am, because that is what our customers want.”

She thanked all her customers, who have included Princess Diana, who ordered one of The Runaway’s bacon sandwiches on a visit to the town, country singer Willie Nelson, actor Michael York and the Duke of Gloucester.

Talking point: Are you a regular customer at The Runaway? What do you like about the café?

Share your views by commenting below or for the change to air your opinion on The Argus letters pages email letters@theargus.co.uk.

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