Businesses say construction in Dover’s Market Square is affecting trade

A business owner says he was forced to reduce his opening hours and reduce staff working hours due to ongoing construction in a city center.

Carl Ambrose says the renovation plan at Dover’s Market Square is making things “very difficult” for the Rhino & Bull’s team, which has seen fewer customers walk through the doors in recent months.

The owner of Rhino & Bull takes a walk in the square

As a result, it has now reduced its opening days, with the venue only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 1am for the next six weeks.

Mr. Ambrose, a former firefighter, said: “You can only imagine the frustration of businesses in Market Square.

“We only opened Rhino & Bull’s three months before covid hit.

“We had two bouts of Covid lockdowns and did fine afterwards. But now this has turned it upside down again.

“The council could have carried out the work during Covid when everything was closed, that would have made more sense.

Fences surround construction in progress at Market Square in Dover

“The timing for me is ridiculous.”

Ambrose, 47, fears tourists getting off boats in the harbor will be discouraged from walking into town because of the construction work.

He said: “They will walk under the subway and it looks like downtown Beirut.

“If you’re on vacation and you see a construction site in front of you, you’d avoid it.”

When work began last year, Ambrose, of Dover, reduced the bar’s opening from seven days a week to four days, from Thursday to Sunday.

Carl Ambrose, owner of Rhino & Bull's, with his son Bear.  Image: Carl Ambrose
Carl Ambrose, owner of Rhino & Bull’s, with his son Bear. Image: Carl Ambrose

But now it has been reduced to just two days a week, which means that the working hours of its staff have also been reduced.

He adds: “I’m sure it will look good in the end, but the timing hasn’t been good.”

On Facebook, Mr. Ambrose posted: “Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, business has become very difficult with construction work currently taking place outside and for at least the next six weeks.

“As such, we will only be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. for this time.

“While it should be nice when it’s finished and we hope it will bring a new vibe to the city, it’s proving very difficult being so close to our front door!

The view from the outside of Rhino & Bull's.  Image: Carl Ambrose
The view from the outside of Rhino & Bull’s. Image: Carl Ambrose

“We apologize for any inconvenience caused to any of our customers!”

The works are also affecting other businesses in the urban area.

Kanthappa Varatharajan, owner of the Londis food store, said trading has slowed down significantly.

He said: “We don’t have customers passing by now because people can’t walk directly towards us.

“I thought the work was supposed to be done bit by bit, but the problem is that it’s being done all over the place.

Kanthappa Varatharajan of Londis says trade is down by two-thirds
Kanthappa Varatharajan of Londis says trade is down by two-thirds

“Compared to last June, we think our trade is down to two-thirds.”

Tess Franklin, manager of neighboring Oriental Mini-Mart, said: “After they started working last September, our trade was down to 75%, but since they fenced off parts a couple of months ago, it’s now down to 25%.

“We are not receiving normal passing trade, just regular customers.

‘Some people go straight to St James’.

“Our deliveries come from trucks and they cannot reach us.

Tess Franklin of Oriental Mini-Mart
Tess Franklin of Oriental Mini-Mart

“We welcome the development as it will bring a lot of people to Dover.

“The council is cooperating with us, but I don’t think they are aware of the impact.”

Necati Gunes, head of Aspendos Turkish restaurant on King Street, added: “It’s affecting us.

“To begin with, we are not receiving elderly people or people in wheelchairs.

“They’re avoiding us completely because access is so bad. We’re down 40% on our business and it’s getting worse.”

An artist's impression showing what Market Square will look like once it's complete.  Image: Dover District Council
An artist’s impression showing what Market Square will look like once it’s complete. Image: Dover District Council

A major renovation of Market Square began last year, with contractors, FM Conway, carrying out the work on behalf of Kent County Council and Dover District Council.

The aim of the £3.6m project is to attract more people to visit and shop in Dover by making the square more welcoming to residents and creating a focal point for visitors.

New features include a paved performance space, water feature, more seating and lighting, and terrace areas.

Construction is expected to take nine months and be completed in the summer of 2022, Dover council said.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We regret any inconvenience caused during the current regeneration work.

Market Sqaure photographed in 2019, before the works began
Market Sqaure photographed in 2019, before the works began

“We have been working closely with local businesses to keep them updated as these important works progress.

“The works began in November and are expected to be completed soon.

“This represents a significant investment in the city, and we look forward to the renewed opening of Market Square.

“We hope to see the project attract more people to visit and shop in Dover by making Market Square more welcoming to local residents and creating a focal point for downtown visitors.”

The investment in Market Square is one of several projects taking place in the city.

A £9m restoration project is underway on the historic Maison Dieu building.

Elsewhere, a new cafe is opening in the port, where £250m was recently spent on the Dover Western Docks revival scheme.

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