top of page

Against all Odds

Over the last few years, all businesses have had so much to cope with including Brexit, Covid, global warming, the war in Ukraine and the resulting impact of product shortages and food inflation. It’s enough to make entrepreneurs of small businesses, in particular, think, “Why do I bother?”

Sister and brother, Kerry and James O’Reilly, are co-owners of the Seapot Café in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, a quaint little café on the promenade coastal path just east of Ventnor fishing harbour, enthusiastically frequented by locals and tourists alike for their delicious range of home-made dishes with James sourcing the products and Kerry busy in the kitchen.

Kerry takes up the story,

“We purchased a council public convenience and boat bay, converted it to the Seapot and opened in 2014. Because of the remote location on the coastal path, we have a difficult time getting deliveries due to our location but this is also a pro point as there are seldom vehicles to block access. The café gives visitors and walkers the opportunity to relax with 180o vistas of the English Channel in Ventnor’s micro climate.

We have a tiny kitchen and servery and it is like a Tardis inside, people often marvel that we produce such lovely dishes in such a tight space.

Unfortunately, the Isle of Wight Council closed part of the Esplanade last November after a large hole and cracks appeared in the seawall between the town and the Seapot café. Since then, sections of the promenade have collapsed into the sea. The closure along the seafront walkway and lack of diversion signs, has meant that many people abandon the walk entirely or don’t know how to continue.

Signs were promised but didn’t materialise. Walkers leaving Ventnor to walk towards Bonchurch face the hard closure of the path, and no signs to direct them up and around to Seapot.

As a result, we have very little passing trade now. The Shanklin to Ventnor walk was popular with a variety of demographics but now can only be achieved if you’re fit and agile involving climbing up and down many steps to navigate the route.

We did think that we may have to close down for this season as it was actually costing us money to open. However, the recent Isle of Wight County Press article was very helpful in letting people know we were still there, and in fact that there was anything there, so we have gained some new customers too.

We are open 11-3 (last orders) serving sandwiches, deli boards and ploughman’s/fisherman’s lunches, hot and cold drinks, and are licensed to serve alcohol. We are open every day except Fridays when we have a day off. Friday was always remarkably quiet for us as it’s a short-break changeover day and other cafes close on other days, so there’s always somewhere great for people to go.”

As a regular visitor, I can highly recommend the 1/2Kg of Moules, locally caught Ventnor Crab or a slice of their delicious fresh cream and strawberry Victoria Sponge, just the thing to eat when you visit Victoria’s Isle of Wight. Wherever possible local Isle of Wight produce and drinks are served.

At long last, and on a brighter note, a large excavator arrived in Ventnor recently, ahead of work on the Eastern Cliffs promenade, and was escorted down the switchback Shore Hill by a banksman before 8.30am so that no road closures were be needed.

Its job will be to install around 165, 12-metre long ‘king piles’ in front of the existing sea defences which have partially failed. This will then be backfilled and capped with concrete to encapsulate the badly corroded sheet piles.

Works will begin at the western end of the seawall failure (by the skatepark). Each section will be completed individually before moving further east.

It’s the toughest challenge yet for this popular cafe on a beautiful Isle of Wight seafront walkway and Kerry added, “This has had a massive impact. We are at least 75 per cent down and we are only busy now because someone put a post on Facebook urging people to come and support us. Last week it was dead.

“The immediate prognosis for us is not good. This is our tenth season and we have survived a burglary and the Covid pandemic, but this is our toughest challenge yet, especially at a time when the economy is as it is.”

If you are visiting the Isle of Wight this summer and want a treat, park in Wheelers Bay Car Park and walk down the steps, or approach it from the eastern end of the promenade from Bonchurch.

After all of the trials and tribulations, let’s hope that people continue to support Kerry and James and their team, and they go from strength to strength in the future. Tel: 01983 857787


Stay Up-To-Date with New Posts

Search By Tags

bottom of page