A restaurant in Worthing has suddenly closed, with mystery surrounding whether it will open again.
Yesterday, a sign was put in the window of the Aqua restaurant in Chapel Road that said: "Restaurant is closed due to technical maintenance. Will be opened today for dinner service from 5pm. We apologise for inconvenience."
When asked whether the eatery would be reopening or was closing for good yesterday, a member of staff said they were not sure.
But today, the restaurant's sign was taken down, displays were removed from the windows and workmen were seen stripping out appliances from inside the restaurant.
Furthermore, the Worthing branch's details have been removed from the Aqua website.
This comes as the Lewes branch in Friars Walk had a sign on the front door of the premises yesterday (Wednesday, May 1) announcing ‘with regret’ that the restaurant had closed with immediate effect.
The Herald has made various attempts to approach the Aqua restaurant group for comment, but has not received a reply so far.
Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said she had also tried to contact the company, but had not heard back from them.
She said: "It is really difficult until we know what their plans are. To lose a restaurant is always very sad and we are thinking of the people who worked there.
"A lot of people liked the restaurant – it is a business we would not like to say goodbye to. We would much rather say hello to them."
Speaking about the general landscape, Sharon said increased business rates for the hospitality industry since 2017, plus the introduction of a higher minimum wage, had put pressure on pubs, restaurants, bars and cafés, causing even big chains like Nandos to scale back on their expansion plans.
That being said, she said there were still a lot of positives in Worthing town centre's near future, such as the opening of Masterchef winner Kenny Tutt's new restaurant Pitch in Warwick Street.
Aqua still has four other restaurants listed on its website: two in Bristol, one in Bath and one in Portishead, North Somerset.
The Smithson family founded the first Aqua restaurant in Bristol in 1998, serving Italian cuisine.