THE owners of popular venue Flirt are selling up and leaving the cafe business after almost 25 years at the centre of Bournemouth’s social life.

But Rob Hazell and Peter Moody say the cafe bar at the Triangle will continue under new owners, with all the staff – known as “Flirters” – staying.

The couple started the business from scratch six years ago after being ousted from the multi-million pound Shakeaway chain, which they started in Bournemouth.

Before that, they ran the cafe bar Legend, in Bourne Avenue, which they founded in 1993.

Mr Hazell said he would be concentrating on his other career as a humanist celebrant at funerals.

“We’ve had a fantastic six years and we thought we’ve done our bit – particularly because of what I’m doing with the funeral celebrancy, which I thought was going to be a part time thing and turned out to be full time.

“That takes me away from the day to day business and Flirt and so times change. We thought it was time for a bit of new blood in there. Once we’ve gathered our thoughts, Peter will decide what he’s going to do next.”

He added: “No more cafes. We’ve been part of Bournemouth premises since 1993. That’s it for us, for that kind of thing.”

The business has been sold to Shaan Hussein and wife Taz, with manager Lukas Sembera staying on to deal with the day-to-day running.

“They absolutely love the place,” Mr Hazell said of the new owners.

“We met several people who were interested in buying it and Shaan and Taz just felt right for it. If it was someone coming in we didn’t like, then it wouldn’t be a pleasant way for us to leave. These people are really nice.”

Flirt’s founders set up Legend cafe bar in 1993, with their redundancy money from Mr Hazell’s job at BT and Mr Moody’s from Nationwide estate agency. It became one of the town’s best-loved venues and its array of milk shakes inspired ShakeAway, which started in Post Office Road in 1999.

ShakeAway became a franchise with 59 outlets and a £6million turnover at its peak, but its founders were ousted in 2011 under a deal which saved it from administration.

They borrowed from family and friends to start Flirt, in the Bournemouth Library building at the Triangle. Its quirky interior – including a set of aircraft seats – combined with a busy programme of events and use of social media earned it a devoted following.

The business was credited with rejuvenating the Triangle area and paving the way for other brands such as Starbucks.