Hopes for spring opening date for Rockfish restaurant

PUBLISHED: 10:41 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:03 04 September 2019

Mitch Tonks of Rockfish has spoken about his plans for the Drill Hall in Sidmouth. Picture: therockfish.co.uk

Mitch Tonks of Rockfish has spoken about his plans for the Drill Hall in Sidmouth. Picture: therockfish.co.uk

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The restaurateur behind a proposed £1million seafood restaurant on Sidmouth seafront has revealed his hopes to open in less than a year.

The first look at Rockfish's planning application for Sidmouth's Drill Hall. Picture: Grainge ArchitectsThe first look at Rockfish's planning application for Sidmouth's Drill Hall. Picture: Grainge Architects

Mitch Tonks, of Rockfish, told the Herald he would like to open the Drill Hall premises by April or May 2020, if his planning application receives district council backing.

The businessman said the building first came on his radar a number of years ago and he made a bid after it came on the market.

His proposal won the backing of East Devon District Council earlier this year.

He has submitted an application for a change of use to convert the hall into a restaurant, create a new balcony, replace the rear exterior of the building with a new single-storey extension and create an external terrace.

Mitch Tonks of Rockfish has spoken about his plans for the Drill Hall in Sidmouth. Picture: therockfish.co.ukMitch Tonks of Rockfish has spoken about his plans for the Drill Hall in Sidmouth. Picture: therockfish.co.uk

Mr Tonks said: "I am always looking for locations that are unusual or by the sea. Locations like the Drill Hall do not come up very often.

"A couple of years went by and it went on the market and I though 'brilliant' and I went to have a look.

"At our Exmouth restaurant we had a lot of Sidmouth customers who said 'you should come to Sidmouth' and it gave me the confidence.

"I would like to open by April or May next year."

The plans received support from residents and Sidmouth Town Council on August 28, but concerns were raised about the proposed charcoal-grey colour.

The exterior of the building would be covered in cladding to look like a working fishing building and safeguard the building from erosion.

The Rockfish owner said the nearby sailing club, lifeboat station and trawler shop added to the surroundings to create a 'fishing end' of the town.

Mr Tonks said: "We were quite aware it's a building the community feel is there for the community.

"I really like it (millboard cladding) I thought it would be really cool. It is something that through the design process we might lighten up.

"What we want is to create the very best look and feel of the building."

Rockfish will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year and has premises in Dartmouth, Plymouth, Torquay, Exmouth, Plymouth, Weymouth and Exeter.

As part of the development, the restaurant looks to create between 30 and 40 jobs including highly skilled and full time roles with further employment during the summer months.

The businessman said it was important to become involved with the community through sponsorship or donations.

He said: "£1 per bill is donated to local charities. We have been doing that for 10 years, we donate to local causes, we work with a charity for a year or two.

"It's quite fitting that it is coming to Sidmouth in its 10th year. It will be exactly what we do in our other restaurants.

"We are looking forward to heading to Sidmouth and joining in the festivals that are already on and adding to it."

Read more

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'Perfect destination' - Rockfish reveal further details for Drill Hall

First design revealed as Rockfish submit application for Drill Hall

Seafood restaurant confirms bid for 'wonderful' Drill Hall

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