One of Southend’s most famous pubs will sadly close due to the “unbearable pressures” of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Railway Hotel, on Clifftown Road, will go down in the town’s history as not only an elegant Victorian pub, but also home to local rock music and the Southend arts scene.
James Vessey-Miller, manager of the iconic venue, announced the sad news on Twitter last night (April 6), explaining that The Railway has “run out of steam” and that the company that facilitates the business has drawn to a grinding halt.
Mr Vessey-Miller added that the company has collapsed under the weight of “unbearable pressures and almost un-tradable circumstances”.
According to the business boss, money has simply run out with “no route out”, and despite best efforts the company is insolvent and soon to be in liquidation.
The doors to the pub are now sadly permanently closed, it was announced in the three-page letter to customers.
I want to preface this by saying that this isn’t a letter I had ever wanted to write.
— James Vessey-Miller (@VesseyMiller) April 6, 2021
The letter from Mr Vessey-Miller, read: “It will of course come as no surprise to you revealing that The Railway has been struggling financially for a very long time.
“In fact, the difficult business circumstances in late 2018 were precisely the reason I became involved in managing the business in early 2019.
“I have always been honest about the challenges of keeping the pub afloat, and it has been an incredibly difficult period of time for all involved.
“Following the pub’s temporary closure in 2018, there were no guarantees it would last forever, but what we did have on our side was a dedicated team of people who through a tremendous amount of effort and determination kept the machinery running and the doors open to a loving and die-hard congregation.
“Miraculously, by the start of last year The Railway was in the healthiest position it had been in for quite some time, and we were genuinely turning the tide for the better.
“Thanks to a monumental amount of work put in by the team through the latter half of 2019, almost all of the pub’s long-term crippling supplier debts had been repaid by Febuary 20, and we had a good roadmap for how we were going to continue to make repairs, improve and refine the pub over the course of 2020.
“Unfortunately, like everyone the world over, 2020 had other plans. The Coronavirus pandemic has been the single most difficult thing to have happened in our generation to date, and for those people and businesses in sectors the government claims are non-essential and ‘non-viable’, this has been beyond difficult. The Railway was no exception.”
He continued: “I want to round this off positively by saying that whilst the building may be shut for good, the spirit of what the Railway and it’s extended family was and is will endure.
“There will always be room for compassionate, ethical, and independent businesses, and despite this setback, you can’t stop rock and roll.”
Landlord Fi Dulake hopes the pub will welcome new ownership in the future.
She added: “Although we’ll no longer be running the pub ourselves, Essex recording studios have shown a big interest in taking The Railway over and wish to keep live music going.
“However the decision with this assignment ultimately lies in Heineken’s hands who have not ageeed to anything as yet. We’re crossing all our fingers and toes that a deal can be made beteeen both parties.
“This may take time and we’ll of course keep you posted as soon as we know any news. For now though, it’s goodbye from Dave and I.
“To all our family, thank you so much for supporting us throughout all these years. You gave us encouragement in so many ways and at so many times making it possible to hang in there for 13 and a half years.”
Councillors across the town have now expressed their condolences over the closure.
Councillor Daniel Nelson, who represents the Southchurch ward, said: “I’m sorry to read this James, hopes for the best for you going forward. Best of luck.”
Councillor Laurie Burton, who represents the Blenheim Park ward, added: “Really sad to read this James. I know how much effort you and Reece put in to making it work. A real loss for Southend.”