Runaway café at Lewes Station is given the boot

The Argus: Jaqueline Elsey (holding tea) with her team outside The Runaway at Lewes Station Jaqueline Elsey (holding tea) with her team outside The Runaway at Lewes Station

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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Comments (14)

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2:01pm Fri 11 Jan 13

Tom V says...

That's such a shame. I loved their tasty, homemade sandwiches and coffee, as well as friendly service. A chain with bland, cardboardy sandwiches just won't be the same. I won't use it again.
That's such a shame. I loved their tasty, homemade sandwiches and coffee, as well as friendly service. A chain with bland, cardboardy sandwiches just won't be the same. I won't use it again. Tom V

2:19pm Fri 11 Jan 13

Neillo says...

Another example of Southern Rail not listening to their customers.
Another example of Southern Rail not listening to their customers. Neillo

2:23pm Fri 11 Jan 13

banargustrolls says...

Awful news, typical Southern. Get the corporate whores in.
Awful news, typical Southern. Get the corporate whores in. banargustrolls

2:51pm Fri 11 Jan 13

Nick Brighton says...

http://www.dpthedrin
kspeople.com/Article
/The-Flying-Coffee-B
ean-at-Lewes-Station
/8/Default.aspx

Proof.
http://www.dpthedrin kspeople.com/Article /The-Flying-Coffee-B ean-at-Lewes-Station /8/Default.aspx Proof. Nick Brighton

4:33pm Fri 11 Jan 13

MuammarQaddafi says...

It's a pity because Southern Rail are denying customers a convenience which they enjoy, and which has nothing to do with actually operating a railroad, as you can have a perfectly functioning railway station without a cafe. So this is simply a a stick to us customers' shins to remind us that small enjoyments are irrelevant and to prove who is 'boss' around here.
It's a pity because Southern Rail are denying customers a convenience which they enjoy, and which has nothing to do with actually operating a railroad, as you can have a perfectly functioning railway station without a cafe. So this is simply a a stick to us customers' shins to remind us that small enjoyments are irrelevant and to prove who is 'boss' around here. MuammarQaddafi

5:38pm Fri 11 Jan 13

SimonS says...

From the DP Drinks Company website: "The name will not change and the essence and soul of the Runaway will remain."

Amazed that Flying Coffee Bean are allowed to keep the Runaway name! Obviously they're trying to do it on the sly so that nobody realises.

Shame Southern insult our intelligence by implying that it isn't a chain.
From the DP Drinks Company website: "The name [Runaway] will not change and the essence and soul of the Runaway will remain." Amazed that Flying Coffee Bean are allowed to keep the Runaway name! Obviously they're trying to do it on the sly so that nobody realises. Shame Southern insult our intelligence by implying that it isn't a chain. SimonS

5:58pm Fri 11 Jan 13

Stephi@ says...

I used to use the buffet often when I worked n Lewes and always make a point of going there if I visit Lewes.
It is the best buffet on Southern! Such a shame but Southern demonstrate tme and time again that they are only interested in making money with no interest in provding a service for their passengers,
I used to use the buffet often when I worked n Lewes and always make a point of going there if I visit Lewes. It is the best buffet on Southern! Such a shame but Southern demonstrate tme and time again that they are only interested in making money with no interest in provding a service for their passengers, Stephi@

6:08am Sat 12 Jan 13

polegate says...

It is up to the people to boycott the cafe when it changes hands, then maybe it will prove a point
It is up to the people to boycott the cafe when it changes hands, then maybe it will prove a point polegate

8:17am Sat 12 Jan 13

vivelavive says...

Capitalism.
Capitalism. vivelavive

9:42am Sat 12 Jan 13

OP8 says...

I'd like to boycott Southern but as they are the only ones running trains from Lewes to London, I can't (except switch to the woeful FCC at Haywards Heath)
I'd like to boycott Southern but as they are the only ones running trains from Lewes to London, I can't (except switch to the woeful FCC at Haywards Heath) OP8

5:42pm Sat 12 Jan 13

imnotpc says...

i was told by a very good source from southern that there had been a massive bit of palm greasing going on.So no matter what anyone did the outcome was going to be the same...
i was told by a very good source from southern that there had been a massive bit of palm greasing going on.So no matter what anyone did the outcome was going to be the same... imnotpc

6:01pm Sat 12 Jan 13

Telscombe Cliffy says...

imnotpc wrote:
i was told by a very good source from southern that there had been a massive bit of palm greasing going on.So no matter what anyone did the outcome was going to be the same...
What did they use? Palm oil?
[quote][p][bold]imnotpc[/bold] wrote: i was told by a very good source from southern that there had been a massive bit of palm greasing going on.So no matter what anyone did the outcome was going to be the same...[/p][/quote]What did they use? Palm oil? Telscombe Cliffy

9:40am Sun 13 Jan 13

mimseycal says...

If I ever go to Lewes train station I'll make sure to bring a flask along.
If I ever go to Lewes train station I'll make sure to bring a flask along. mimseycal

6:25pm Wed 16 Jan 13

Simon Lee says...

I do not understand how Southern can hold this untenable position. If they have information outlining some fundamental reason to why a genuine local business by an enterprising woman is going to be closed in favour of a limited company run primarily for profit (such as lack of customer support, substandard service etc..), it would be in their interests to disclose it.
Otherwise, I see no justification for this. It doesn't seem to be in the favour of anybody (customers, the local economy) and certainly raises a few questions about possible corruption and the transparency of the tender process adopted by Southern.
I do not understand how Southern can hold this untenable position. If they have information outlining some fundamental reason to why a genuine local business by an enterprising woman is going to be closed in favour of a limited company run primarily for profit (such as lack of customer support, substandard service etc..), it would be in their interests to disclose it. Otherwise, I see no justification for this. It doesn't seem to be in the favour of anybody (customers, the local economy) and certainly raises a few questions about possible corruption and the transparency of the tender process adopted by Southern. Simon Lee

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