Vegan Heather Mills buys the Fish Cafe... and takes fish off the menu

She has never been one to shy away from controversy.

So when Heather Mills decided to buy a popular fish restaurant near her home, her first move was obvious: take fish off the menu.

Miss Mills plans to turn the seaside eaterie into a vegan restaurant, believed to be the first in a planned worldwide chain.

And there was bad news for staff as well as seafood-loving clientele: the current owner has laid them off and told them they will not be re-employed when the renovated cafe re-opens.

Heather Mills

Cafe work: Heather Mills paid £140,000 for the seafood eaterie

Miss Mills, 41, signed the deal to take over the Big Fish Cafe near her home in Hove, East Sussex, on Friday.

After initially agreeing to part with £255,000, Miss Mills, who clinched a £24million settlement in her divorce from Sir Paul McCartney, forced the price down to £140,000.

Former owner Nick Short said about the price fall: 'I have been well and truly worked over by Heather.'

Big Fish Cafe

Regular customer: Heather always ordered a veggie breakfast with soya milk tea at the Big Fish Cafe in East Sussex

He said the ex-glamour model had eaten there 'about 20 times' with Bea, her five-year-old daughter by Sir Paul.

'She even came in with Sir Paul before the divorce,' said Mr Short.

'I sold traditional fry-ups but veggie food was on the menu, too. They'd have veggie breakfasts and soya milk tea. Heather said she'd like to buy the place if it came on the market.

Nick Short

Short-changed: Former owner Nick Short said Heather had promised him £100,000 more for his business

'Last July I decided to sell so I got in touch. I went to see her at her home and we made a verbal agreement for £255,000. That was later agreed in writing.

'The arrangement changed in November,' Mr Short told the Sunday Mirror. 'I got a letter from her lawyer saying the price had dropped to £140,000. It blamed the credit crunch and the "current economic climate".

'Her lawyer said there were other issues such as the cost of the ground rent going up and the need to renovate the windows. I was shocked, absolutely gutted.'

And he claimed: 'I'd put off other buyers who were offering the full price thinking I had a deal with Heather. There was nowhere else I could go.'

Mr Short, 49, from nearby Shoreham, added: 'At the end of the day she's got £24million in the bank - £100,000 is not a lot to her, but it is to me.'

He said Heather and her advisers had no plans to take on his two full-time and four part-time staff so he had to lay them off. 'They were like extended family,' he said. 'They all needed the money and the work.

'Heather told me she thinks the veggie cafe idea can work. I have my doubts though. I'm not sure how successful a vegan restaurant is going to be there.'

Last night, Miss Mills's publicist said: 'The real estate market around the country is falling and no one forced the owner to sell. I think Hove, any town really, will be well served by a healthy foods cafe like this.'

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