The reopening of Hastings Pier under the ownership of Sheikh Abid Gulzar has been delayed with suggestions it may open next week.
Mr Gulzar, from Eastbourne Pier – who was announced as the new owner of Hastings Pier last Friday (June 15) – had planned to reopen the popular landmark to the public on Friday (June 22), although this may be delayed until Monday.
He sat down with the Hastings Observer last week and had this to say about his new purchase.
What are your plans for the pier?
“I think there are enough slot machines in the town but we will definitely like to do some build-up like another unit. We are meeting in the town hall all the councillors and head of the department and I am sure we will have a nice meeting with them and we will try to take their views so we will do the things the people like and I will put my own colour into it.”
Will you allow fishing and dogs on the pier?
“When I bought Hastings (pier) they were always asking this question – dogs and fishing. Yes I will do everything where people are responsible but I will not allow anything which damages the pier, anything that fouls the pier, anything that has people who don’t respect it. I want everyone to love it and respect it and that’s a top priority.”
Have you been surprised by some of the negativity you’ve received regarding the purchase of the pier?
“When Jesus Christ was there, there were more people also against him and, at that time, there were less Christians. Now, there are a lot more Christians and lot more who love and respect Jesus Christ so that gives us a good strong view that we don’t get switched off but take a lesson and I think continue to improve on it. I am making arrangements. I would like, and I am in discussion, I would like to invite the bishop to come and bless the pier and the people of this town and I want everyone to look at it positively going forward and get the negativity out. It’s a nice town, I love it. The people who are unhappy, the ones who complain, I am not too bothered. I would listen to them all and fairly quickly they will turn around and already on Facebook you can see if they were 50/50 now there are 80 per cent of people in my favour.”
In your opinion, where has the pier been going wrong?
“When the pier was completed, I was the first and the only person as a private businessman who was invited to come and have a look before it was opened to the public. When I came there were 15 to 16 people that took me around and after walking 15 steps I asked them ‘will the pier make any profit?’ and they all shook their heads and said ‘no’. I said ‘will it pay for itself?’. They said ‘we don’t know how much it will cost’. So from my experience, from Eastbourne, I said ‘around £140,000 to £150,000’ and they said ‘yes, you’re right’. So, I said, ‘will it make that money?’. They all shook their heads and they said ‘no’. I had the shock of my life that here they are saying ‘£15million spent’ and that is not going to generate money to look after itself. So I had a big question and I knew something was going to be seriously wrong and it has. On top of that, I find even the council gave more money – nearly £200,000 to £300,000 – to these people taking care of it. This is where it went wrong and this is where I want to make sure that what the pier produces is enough money to pay the wages and the salary. And on top of that, whatever investment we do, we must make sure that is produces money, that it pays for itself and generally to improve it. All of the money earned will be spent back here. One thing I want to make sure of is we don’t need charities. There are other deserving people who need charity. This pier will not be working on charities. We will be working on hard work – genuine, sincere, honest – we must work with heart in mind and that is a must.”