‘Not too late to save us’ says much-loved Hitchin restaurant threatened with closure

PUBLISHED: 07:01 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:18 17 March 2017

Sukawatee owner Nick Clark with his staff outside the restaurant in Hitchin which is threatened with closure due to a planning application to turn the property into residential flats.

Sukawatee owner Nick Clark with his staff outside the restaurant in Hitchin which is threatened with closure due to a planning application to turn the property into residential flats.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Hitchin’s only remaining Thai restaurant is threatened with closure, with a planning application lodged to turn the site into a shop with flats above it.

Sukawatee Thai and Malaysian restaurant in Hermitage Road has been trading at the site under that name for more than a decade, and current owner Nick Clark has been in charge for nearly three years.

But North Herts District Council has received a proposal to convert the ground floor of the Sukawatee restaurant into a shop unit and entrance hall to the upper floors.

The first-floor kitchen would be converted into a studio flat – with seven two-bedroom flats built on top of the existing building in a plan taking in street numbers 71 to 81.

After more than a year of quiet negotiation with the landlord, owner Nick is disappointed that the restaurant may have to go.

He said: “The 10-year lease expired last year – but although we’ve been talking for a long time they have only offered a short-term option, which is no good for my business.

“It’s a very popular restaurant with a loyal clientele and authentic Thai food at reasonable prices.

“The lady who ran it before me was a Thai and I’ve got several Thai friends.

“We’re a team here and 11 full-time and part-time employees are threatened with losing their jobs.

“Thailand is known as the land of smiles, and we try and make our community happy.

“It’s not just about the business and the large amount of people from the Hitchin community – we also host meetings for the Thai community in and around North Herts and beyond.

“Lots of Thai families and groups hold social meetings and gatherings here, as we are a bit of a community hub with a friendly welcome to everyone.

“If you’ve been to Thailand you’ll know how great the food is and the welcome, and we offer a genuine taste of that.

“Hitchin has a reputation for being a town offering great food, but if we close the nearest Thai restaurant will be in Stevenage.

“It can’t be right that a place like Hitchin won’t have a Thai restaurant.

“We can still exist if there were changes to the planning application – it’s not too late to register your objections.

“A big thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years by visiting us – and who continue to support us in terms of raising... against this planning application.”

The prospect of losing the restaurant, with its warm welcome and mouth-watering food, has prompted a large number of customers to raise their objections with the council regarding the planning application.

But loyal customer Hetty Boardman-Weston wants more. She said: “Without enough registered objections there is a real risk Hitchin could lose this wonderful restaurant.

“This would come at great cost for local families who appreciate the low-cost food, as well as office workers in the area for whom it’s a popular lunchtime choice.

“It would also be a great loss to Hitchin’s independent restaurant scene.”

It’s still not too late to have your say as you can register your objection or share your opinions with the council until Thursday, March 23.

See http://pa.north-herts.gov.uk/online-applications/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage to add your comments.

• Due to problems with the server, if the link is not working go to https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/planning/planning-applications, click on ‘view planning applications’ (plus the subsequent tab), search for ‘80 Hermitage Road’ and click on the ‘change of use’ application.

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