Hastings Battleaxe visits Hastings Pier – what has changed?

On Saturday morning, another beautiful sunny day, Battleaxe and Philosopher went down to Hastngs Pier. We wanted to see what, if anything, had changed since Sheik Abid Gulzar acquired the Pier a month ago. The verdict? Not a lot happening – a bit worrying.

    After the sale of the Pier in June, I wrote a long blog post about the situation. It was widely read – here is the link. .
    I’d like to reiterate my view that the transfer of the Pier into private ownership was wrong and very sad, and I do believe the sale was handled badly by the administrators. I also understand the raw feelings of the pier staff, the volunteers and all those involved with the unsuccessful bids to secure the Pier for the community. 
    However, what is done is done, and it is not going to be undone.  We are where we are. People may mutter about conspiracy and corruption but as far as I can see this is just another lazy, botched, rushed sale/transfer of an organisation in trouble… so wrong, but so common.
    Some have said that they will not visit or spend money on the pier as long as it remains in Mr Gulzar’s hands. I don’t hold with this. For all of us in Hastings, I believe that we need to ensure that the new owner feels sufficiently positive about us and the pier project to want to nurture it and invest in it. It is not Mr Gulzar’s fault that he was given the pier on a plate….  I know he can sell it again in two years, but if it fails again, in two years and one day we may well find it mysteriously sold to a Panamanian asset-stripping company…..
    So, what did we find?  On the face of it, things looked much the same. The views are still just as wonderful.  Philosopher, with his high class camera, captured the glint of a gold dome on Mr Gulzar’s other pier, right over in Eastbourne. There is a new shed by the entrance – no information on what it is for, and a gold golf cart that offers rides to the end of the pier – I saw no takers.

The strange shed – and the gold golf cart

    By its own low footfall standards, the pier was actually quite busy – locals, plenty of tourists, who presumably know nothing of what has gone on, and many foreign students. One corner was taken up with the organisation of a kayaking/swimming event in aid of a cancer charity.

Swimming and kayaking

    The usual balance of huts were open for business as against those, as ever, shuttered and closed. One hut had a nice display of the Donald McGill saucy postcards that had been judged as obscene in the past.

Donald McGill….

    The top deck cafe was open, and looked quite full, as was the Pavilion.
    However, the central building was locked, and all the windows boarded up so it was impossible to see what, if anything, was happening within. There were no notices to tell us what was going on, and we saw many people try the doors and go away disappointed. From what I could see peering through the door, the interior looked empty and deserted.  In practical terms, this of course meant a shortage of toilets, and there were queues outside the (too few) hut loos…
    We walked to the end of the pier, and I noticed that the deck was not as clean as it used to be. There was gull poo, and much mess from gulls dropping mussels in order to crack the shells. This did not look good, and marred the beauty of the open deck.

Gull litter

     We had a drink at the Pavilion. Sitting outside in the shade of an umbrella, it was very pleasant.  The staff were eager to help us and to demonstrate their customer service skills. We had a coffee, a pot of Earl Grey tea and a (large) slice of lemon drizzle cake. The bill was £7.00 – perfectly average. The previous day we had paid £8 for a similar order in the Old Town.  It was nicely presented, the cake was fresh and very good, and the Earl Grey was good quality. All fine there. However, for me, the best bit was the gold elephant teapot – presumably the choice of Mr Gold….  Kill me now, but I loved it. What a great piece of kitsch.
     The bar was open at the other end of the Pavilion, but I didn’t see any sign of other catering – no menus on display.  The fish and chip place was closed.

Our refreshments….

     On our way out, we spotted the infamous gold Mercedes, parked behind the Pavilion. Sadly, no sign of the owner – Battleaxe would have liked to ask him for comments.

The Gulzarmobile….

     However, the car was clearly a tourist attraction on its own – people were photographing it, posing beside it, taking selfies. Kill me again but Battleaxe joined them – Philosopher took my pic and I got a few laughs on Facebook out of it.  No, I am not putting the photo on here – I’ll only get slagged off.
     So what is Mr Gulzar up to?  He has now had the Pier over a month. Peak summer holiday time is fast approaching and as yet he has done nothing to raise any money. Some events, eg the Pirate Day happenings on the Pier have been cancelled, apparently due to lack of staff.
    As we all know, the cost of keeping that Pier open is monumental. How can he sustain the on-going losses? What are his plans?  If he employs few staff, does no cleaning of the structure and no maintenance, can he just keep it open as a vanity project?  Does he plan to close it over the winter to make major changes?
    Given that he apparently knew well before the sale that he was going to be the successful bidder, would he not have had a few little earners all ready to put on there?
    Who knows, and right now, nobody seems to be telling us.  Why no communication? A few notices? A leaflet?
     The time I’ve spent over the years writing these ruddy blog posts about the wretched Pier, I could have run the the thing myself….

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