Vegan restaurant Offbeet in Wickham closes but owner claims it's nothing to do with the 'plant-based movement'

A RESTAURANT that exclusively serves vegan food has closed its Wickham branch, saying ‘the figures just didn’t stack up.’

Wednesday, 26th February 2020, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 12:18 pm
Peter Axworthy, founder of Offbeet.

Offbeet Wickham, in Bridge Street, closed its doors on Thursday, February 20.

Owner Peter Axworthy said ‘a variety of issues’ had prompted the closure of the business – and it was not a result of customers turning against vegan cooking.

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The Offbeet restaurant was located in Chesapeake Mill, Wickham, a trader's space which remains open for business.

The restaurateur, who runs vegan cookery classes from an Offbeet branch in Totton, said: ‘I have seen some comments on social media saying it’s because we are vegan – it's got nothing to do with the whole plant-based movement.

‘We are seeing more and more people coming to our courses. There is a lot of interest in vegan dishes.

‘It's more a business decision.’

A lack of customer parking within Wickham and space within the restaurant, located in a costly 19th Century mill, contributed to the restaurant’s demise, he added.

A beetroot burger, prepared at the Offbeet restaurant.

Mr Axworthy said: ‘The mill is fairly expensive and Wickham has limited parking.

‘We have had 28 covers inside, and we would received feedback about how cramped it was.’

Chesapeake Mill is a former flour mill that hosts 47 different traders and remains open for business. Its management declined to comment on the future of the now-vacated space.

Winchester City Council councillor Therese Evans said the restaurant and traders’ space could take advantage of free parking close by.

She said: ‘(The mill) is a long way from The Square, but there is free parking near Station Close, a one-minute walk away.’

Mr Axworthy said he was ‘very sad’ to close the restaurant, which he opened with his mother in 2015.

He said: ‘It’s very sad – there are four members of staff, who have been unable to relocate to the New Forest branch.

‘Sadly their jobs will be lost.’

While the restaurateur said there are ‘no immediate plans’ to open a new venue, he has looked at expanding into Southsea.

He said: ‘We did try to open up in Southsea about six months ago.

‘We had some offers in, but they fell through.

‘We would have loved to have been in the area.’

Offbeet Totton, in Sunnyfields Farm, is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday, closing 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 4pm on Sundays.