‘Heavy heart’ as losses force Rustington café’s closure

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RUSTINGTON Museum’s Garden Café will close on Saturday, after the parish council decided it could no longer sustain the spiralling losses made by the facility.

Council chairman councillor Alison Cooper said the decision had been taken ‘with a heavy heart’. Five people, including part-timers, will lose their jobs.

Regular customer Jackie Burlison said everyone had been ‘shocked’ to learn that the café was closing.

“It is so popular. No one wants it to shut. It’s the only vegetarian café in Rustington.

“They could have increased the prices or advertised it better to keep it going, but the council seems to just want to cut its losses,” said Miss Burlison, of Allangate Drive, Rustington.

Parish council clerk Carole Ward said it had been a very difficult and ‘unprecedented’ decision by the council to close the café, making the three permanent staff redundant. Two Saturday assistants would also lose their jobs.

The café opened at the rear of the then new museum in The Street in March, 2009, making a loss of £1,148 in the first year, and further deficits in the following years totalling £44,000 up to 2013/14. With the finances worsening – an estimated £18,500 reverse in 2014/15 and a projection of £25,000 in the current year had it continued trading – a working party of parish councillors was set up in January to consider various options for the café’s future,

These included summer opening only, leasing the café, a possible buy-out by the manager and closure.

A statement by the council said: “All of the options were prudently studied and, at the conclusion of its deliberations, the working party decided to recommend that the council should seriously consider closing the Garden Café, because it was unable to recommend an alternative viable option.”

At a special meeting of the parish council on June 15, it was agreed to start a consultation over a proposal to close the café with the staff, who agreed with the move. The final decision was taken by the finance and general purposes committee on Thursday. Councillor Graham Tyler, whose wife Dianne was the café manager, took no part in the discussions or votes.

The statement said the council ‘was indebted to the manager, assistant manager and all other members of personnel, together with the volunteers for all the work that they have invested into the café to attempt to make it viable’

The museum garden is still open to the public, but the council has yet to discuss the café building’s future.

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