Italian food business clashes with RVP over vision for Ely Court

ARCADE HIRE: The empty units in Ely Court and (inset) an Eat Italiano market stall

A WAR of words over empty units in Royal Victoria Place’s (RVP) arcade of shops off Camden Road has revealed conflicting visions for the retail site.

Eat Italiano, run by career businessman and market trader Egidio Rosa, has opened inside the shopping centre, but the company’s real dream is to take over the entire arcade of a dozen shops, which opens into both RVP and Camden Road.

“This would be [shops like] a gelateria, coffee shop, fruit and vegetables, pizza, cooked pasta, fresh bread…” deputy director Daniel Marcu explained.

The tables which currently stand in the arcade would be replaced by market stalls creating the setting for a planned ‘Sicilian market’, he said.

Yet Mr Rosa said: “The management at RVP is not very cooperative. Shopping centres are kaput. Management don’t have [any] idea.”

Mr Marcu told the Times that after Eat Italiano signed a lease for its shop in the upper mall last autumn, RVP management had reacted with a “lack of support” to their additional proposals.

“We asked nicely ever since for a quote on all spaces around Ely Court,” he said.

“Some of the units were under offer from November 2022 to March 2023. These spaces are still empty. We couldn’t understand it.”

He added: “Now there are some tenants there [in Ely Court], but there remain spaces.

“We asked for quotes and got some prices, but they put up some health and safety issues – for example, you cannot put a vegetable stall outside a shop because it is a fire exit.”

Confirming that Eat Italiano wanted to lease all of the dozen units, rather than sub-letting to other businesses, Mr Marcu told the Times: “They prefer to keep things empty than to give traders something to work on. We are looking for support.

“The business environment has been very challenging. You can see for yourself how dead this place is.

“But we need more room for negotiation. We need more flexibility. We have a proper proposal for Ely Court. We are trying to do some business in Tunbridge Wells, but there is no support from the higher level.

“We would like to see everything done and dusted six months from now.”

Yet a spokesperson for RVP and landlord British Land told the Times: “We are in discussion with a few possible operators following the recent opening of both The Green Duck Tap Room and Even Flow [in]
Ely Court.

“Our shared vision for Ely Court is to create a community of independent retailers and restauranteurs that will provide visitors to Royal Victoria Place with a vibrant hub of locally run businesses.”

Both Even Flow and Green Duck are Tunbridge Wells-based businesses.

Meanwhile, Retro Stuff has this week also relocated to Ely Court from Castle Street, off Tunbridge Wells High Street.

Independent tea house Thirsty Fish is also set to move into one of the units.

British Land has placed advertising hoardings for new tenants in other windows.

The spokesperson added: “We are unable to share further details for units that are currently occupied under existing leases, or under negotiation with new possible tenants.

“We are yet to receive a formal proposal from Eat Italiano, including commercial terms or details of the plans for these available units.”

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