Anna and Ilham Allahverdi opened Royal Fish, in Hamsey Green, Warlingham, in 2005 and have built up a large and devoted customer base since then. When the couple were recently refused an extension to their lease, there was an outpouring of support on the Warlingham Facebook group and a fundraising campaign was set up to help them relocate, and pay legal bills.
Royal Fish’s landlord, Joseph Richard Chiu Choi Mann, of Belvedere, Kent, purchased the building on Limpsfield Road in 1991, dividing it into two units in 1996 and granting a 20-year lease on them in 1998. There were three other lease-holders at unit 86b before 2005, when Anna and Ilham took it over. They redecorated the shop, kitting it out with new equipment and working long hours in their efforts to make it a success.
In 2017, the Allahverdis applied to Mr Mann for a lease extension but it was rejected. They went to court to appeal the decision, encountering Mr Mann there for the first time in their 16-year tenancy.
There are seven lawful grounds on which a commercial lease extension can be refused. Mr Mann cited ‘landlord intends to occupy the premises’, stating his intention to run his own fish and chip shop at 86b. The court ruled in his favour.
Alison Radlett has been a Royal Fish customer for over a decade:
“Anna and Ilham are the most hard-working, dedicated couple I know, they never take a holiday. Royal Fish is somewhere you can buy delicious food and have a chat too. They always have time to listen to you: just popping in to see them will cheer you up.”
It was Alison who set up the JustGiving page for them:
“The Allahverdis have been part of our community for 16 years and were devastated when they found out they were losing their lease and, therefore, their only source of income. The Facebook post about them closing got so many messages of support it spurred me to start the appeal. The money raised – currently £900 – will help them move, and pay court fees. I hope people continue to donate.”
Local resident Mary Lee is also unhappy Royal Fish will be closing:
“Anna and Ilham are so nice, and have brought our community together. The past year has been hard enough for them to keep the business going as it is, so to then find out they have to leave the shop they love is heartbreaking.”
Anna and Ilham will vacate Royal Fish on 16 June, and are currently looking for new premises. They hope to stay in Hamsey Green but will move further afield if necessary. Wherever they go, the 260+ comments of love and solidarity on Facebook suggest that the couple will take the loyalty of their customers with them.
The Caterham Independent contacted Mr Mann for comment but he declined the opportunity to talk to us.
Alison Radlett’s campaign can be found by searching ‘Royal Fish’ at JustGiving.com.