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Cardens evolving relationship with Rockwater started in early 2020. Founder Luke Davis and Operations Director Lee Wilson needed an accountant that was able to be flexible and personable – and to go the extra mile during what would become a challenging first year for the business.

About Rockwater

Founder Luke Davis had been a fan of Brighton and Hove since living in the city during his early twenties. So, after living and working in London, he decided to move back to Hove with his growing family. Having already established his own portfolio of businesses, Luke quickly saw the potential that the Hove seafront had to offer. He came across his local ‘The View’, which benefitted from sea views in a high footfall area.

The venue was still being used for town meetings and events, and Luke was passionate about maintaining the same community hub. So, once ‘The View’ became Rockwater and extensive redevelopment work began in 2018, thoughts quickly turned to the full potential of the site.

“We hadn’t quite realised how big the opportunity was and how engaged the community would be and how fun and rewarding it would be.”

Rockwater rapidly turned into a fully-fledged brand. The original dream of owning an inviting, sociable bar expanded in 2019 as the team built up Rockwater Life. This lifestyle side of Rockwater invites locals to enjoy yoga, Pilates, running, a swimming club, tennis…the more community engagement and stakeholders the better.

Luke’s summary: “I think we’re in a really good place. I think it has been a fun journey.”

Why Rockwater approached Cardens

Luke first approached Cardens with a handful of other businesses after being disappointed by inflexible and unapproachable accountants in the City:

“I have found relationships with big corporate accountants difficult. There was no real personal relationship, and they have a one-approach-fits-all offering. That didn’t work for me as I have many businesses and I’m really busy.”

After proving that our approach matched the style of service that Luke needed, we were thrilled to then pick up the Rockwater account, just a short journey away from the Old Casino. This new venture needed a reliable and flexible accounting and business advisory approach that left no stone unturned.

“To get the best results, the team has had to adapt to work with us which isn’t something that would happen with other firms.”

Our bespoke approach

What started as a ‘clean cut’ account management and bookkeeping client quickly turned into a close collaboration to ensure that this new project started off in a great position. This involved invoicing processes, setting up communication and training processes with suppliers and overseeing VAT.

“I call it a bespoke approach as the relationship Hannah, Mike and the team has with me isn’t the same as with other clients.”

Like Luke, we believe that great work rests on great relationships and knew that Luke needed a tailored approach, which he appreciates:

“To get the best results, the team has had to adapt to work with us which isn’t something that would happen with other firms. They are involved personally: chasing me with text messages, giving me proactive advice about different issues and scenarios that I wouldn’t have got elsewhere. They go above and beyond.”

Innovative approaches to challenges

2020 was meant to be the year that Rockwater proper became the new go-to destination for the community. But, like so many other businesses, COVID steered the business in surprising directions. The Cardens team were there for its many permutations and problem solving along the way.  

First challenge: Lockdown coupled with supplier issues meant that Rockwater closed, and staff were unoccupied.

Innovation: After talking with a friend, Luke came up the idea to “just sell coffee”. Luke and Brighton Council agreed to open seafront food and drink shacks, creating Shacks by the Shore. Luke, Lee and the team used the time wisely to figure out footfall, price points and what people wanted to buy.

Second challenge: The shacks were becoming too crowded for social distancing measures and the weather starting to turn in the wrong direction.

Innovation: Rockwater hosted 6-person igloo pods, marking another chapter: “We gained international PR, non-stop journalist interest and an Instagram following. It really built up the brand again and it gave us a reputation for being innovative and wanting to keep reinventing ourselves.”

Festive trade: After another lockdown spelled an early end for the igloos, Rockwater finally opened for Christmas 2020, which Luke says was “one of the best days in [his] business” journey.

Third challenge: As lockdowns continued into 2021, Rockwater reopened Shacks by the Shore. However, social distancing concerns also returned.

Innovation: The team developed a traffic light system to manage growing orders safely.

Fourth challenge: Maintaining Rockwater’s reputation as a go-to venue while limited to outdoor only hospitality.

Innovation: After gaining planning permission for a roof extension in January 2021, the team opened the sleek space to the public in May. Alongside its daily busy service, Rockwater promoted ‘Pay as you feel’ Wellness Week activities for the community.

Post pandemic

Rockwater in its entirety now operates the four different spaces:

  • The lodge – which hosts many varied events from
    • Paint and Sip – a chance to learn how to paint while enjoying beverages
    • So Talk – a safe space to revive and reconnect
    • Chess Club
    • Craft workshops
  • Bar & Kitchen with has an extensive restaurant menu
  • Roof Terrace where you can enjoy sharing platters and small plates while enjoying the versatile space for whatever weather. The Roof terrace also plays host to live gigs of new talent and established stars alike.
  • The Shacks – there are only now a few of these open on a regular basis to serve coffee, snacks and ice cream to passing trade and for those wishing to sit and enjoy the sea view from the deck

Throughout this time, our combination of accountancy and business advisory experience proved invaluable as the business navigated the hurdles of the pandemic.

Count On Cardens

You can follow Rockwater on FacebookInstagram and via the website.

If you would like to switch to Cardens Accountants, contact us on 01273 739592  and our team will be happy to arrange a free consultation.


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