He’s a man who’s divided the opinion of Eastbourne, but love him or hate him, Sheikh Abid Gulzar has now owned the pier for a year.
When fire engulfed the town’s beloved pier in July 2014, no one knew what its future would be, but on 30 October 2016, Mr Gulzar stepped in and bought the landmark.
At the time he bought the pier, Mr Gulzar said, “I am very proud to have bought the pier. I have lived in this country for 50 years and I care passionately about Eastbourne and the people who live here.
“I want to make it the best pier in the country and I will put whatever investment is needed to achieve this.
“Eastbourne is a wonderful town full of wonderful people and I want the pier to be wonderful as well.
“We were all devastated when the big fire hit the pier last summer and it was never going to be easy to recover from that, but it has, and now I have bought it, Eastbourne Pier will flourish in a big way.
“We have massive plans to improve and enhance the pier, much of which are in the early stages, but make no mistake, Eastbourne Pier will be the talk of the town.”
However, the controversial businessman, who owns several hotels in the town, has caused a stir with many of this comments and actions surrounding the pier. Some took offence to his sign, ‘Thank you for visiting Sheikh’s Pier’, which can be seen as you leave the structure, claiming the pier should belong to the whole town. Others disliked his proposal to introduce a £2 entry fee to go on the pier – something which is yet to have materialised.
Then came his love of all things gold. First the iron lion heads on the lampposts turned gold, then the domes one-by-one changed colour, including that of the camera obscurer and the roof to the restaurant. That is, until he was told he needed planning permission for such works. Retrospective planning permission was granted, with the provision he painted the restaurant roof back to a more neutral colour and none of the remaining grey domes turned gold.
But whilst some of his choices may not have been to everyone’s tastes, Mr Gulzar has worked to bring new life to the pier. The camera obscurer has been fixed, the Ocean Suite revamped and back open and there are plans to do up the old theatre, with the possibility of opening a casino there in its place.
So, whatever your views on Mr Gulzar, it seems the controversial Sheikh is here to stay. But what do you think about his choices for Eastbourne Pier so far? Eastbourne Buzz would love to know.