Stepping into Duke Street is like opening the gates to Brighton’s most famous neighbourhood – but businesses are falling on hard times and the road is rough around the edges.

Wandering down the street in between the stalls set up outside the shops and people nibbling on lunches outside restaurants, it really begins to build the vibrant, independent feel that The Lanes is known for.

With shops closing their doors, graffiti appearing on the walls and chains such as Nando’s moving into the street, businesses say trade is, sadly, more difficult than it once was.

Michel Clement, the man behind Be Chocolat on the street, said times are tougher than when the chocolatier first opened in July 2018.

He said: “It has changed a lot. It was busier in the beginning than it is now.

The Argus: Michel Clement and his wife Titus LalineMichel Clement and his wife Titus Laline (Image: The Argus)

“I think it is a good location but it was better in the beginning.

"Rents are expensive and the streets aren’t taken care of.

“I would like to see businesses on the street work together."

Pedestrianised in 1985, the street is home to many businesses which have stayed there for decades.

At one end of the road, Woodies in Brighton has been selling menswear since the 1980s.

Further down, Mottoo has been selling designer clothes since 1988.

The Argus: Graffiti in Duke StreetGraffiti in Duke Street (Image: The Argus)

Business is not booming but Duke Street has retained its vibrant character despite the struggles.

As you walk down the road, shoppers are still milling around and picking up products you cannot find in many other places in the city.

Independent shops still buzz with excitement and shoppers want to see new ventures up and running as the summer rolls around the corner.

The Argus: A closed shop in Duke StreetA closed shop in Duke Street (Image: The Argus)

But times are tough – businesses continue to struggle in a cost-of-living crisis and independent retailers do not have as much to fall back on during hard times.

Hollingbury resident Franca said: “Because it’s an important tourist area the rates and the rent might be an issue.

"The cost of upkeep must not be cheap but it’s the sort of thing you won’t get anywhere else.”

Shopper Shaun said: “It’s a nice-looking street, it’s a nice place to sit and eat and have lunch.

The Argus: Shoppers Shaun and LaurenShoppers Shaun and Lauren (Image: The Argus)

“There’s no traffic it’s a nice place to wander down on a sunny day.

“The empty shops detract from the feel of the place, it’s a little bit sad.”

Longstanding clothing store owner Gary Gordon is closing down his store after almost 60 years of running different clothes shops in the street.

The shop is closing so Gary can retire, but he is now working seven days a week because the shop “can’t pay for staff now”, his wife Helen says.

The store will be closing in June after the lease for the store expires.

Elsewhere in Duke Street, Monjibello Italian Café has also closed its doors while Soul Creations clothing has also closed.

Just last year Montezuma, a mainstay of the street, announced the decision to close one of its first shops.

While businesses continue to struggle, Brighton residents say tourists should pull together to help support independent businesses.

The Argus: Shoppers Janice, left, and FrancaShoppers Janice, left, and Franca (Image: The Argus)

Surrenden Road resident Janice said that Duke Street was “very Brighton” and loved the niche, quirky stores.

She said: “Having it pedestrianised makes it.

“We need to get out and support the businesses. We shouldn’t keep going back to a McDonald’s or somewhere and come here and sit and eat instead.

“I really enjoy Duke Street and really like it and it’s really sad to see businesses struggling.”

Residents and tourists alike are calling for people to clamour around independent businesses as the summer season approaches.

While some units in Duke Street remain empty now, the character of the area will surely attract new and interesting businesses to open for new trade.