Fears for the future of popular Barnard Castle cafe
OWNERS of a cafe that’s been popular in Barnard Castle for 30 years fear the business won’t survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The combination of good food at reasonable prices and a warm and cosy atmosphere has seen a daily stream of customers access the gated passageway from Horsemarket to The Stables cafe since the early 1990s. However, owners Stephen and Sheena Aldred, say problems with access to their cafe and an inability to access emergency grant funding could spell the end for their business, which employed four members of staff.
Mr Aldred said: “I’m waking up with knots in my stomach every day. I know it’s the same for lots of people, but I just don’t know how we will be able to go on where we are.
“You can’t do social distancing up the passageway. I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Since the lockdown with the help of their daughter, Nicola Stephenson, they have been providing a limited takeaway and delivery service across the dale twice a week serving up their popular roasts to continue to pay bills.
Ms Stephenson said: “Unfortunately we weren’t eligible for the government grant as the rates are paid through the rent. We did ask the local authority to revise it but it wasn’t forthcoming.
“The business was started by my grandma, Phyllis Stoddart, and passed it to mum and dad in 2005.
“We furloughed four members of staff, but we’ve sadly lost two of them as they have got alternative employment due to the uncertainty of the hospitality sector. We’ve managed to grow the new service to keep things going and serve our customers but in terms of social distancing in the future it would be very difficult to operate.”
The family have looked at the government-backed bounce back loans but are worried about taking on debt with the uncertainty of being able to continue in the current location.
Ms Stephenson added: “The passage leading to the cafe poses a real problem for us as people cannot pass at a safe distance and we have no outside space or window due to our location.
“We have thought about supplying face masks to give people a bit of reassurance but this does depend on what the government advice is when easing the lockdown.”
The business owners say they have looked at removing tables to reduce seating capacity.
Ms Stephenson added: “It would significantly reduce our income but the bills still remain the same as we have to power up the same equipment, coffee machines, ovens grills, extractors and the like and we simply won't be able to cover the high rent. It’s just unsustainable.
“We have very loyal and supportive customers and we’d love to continue in the town, but it’s unlikely with the lack of financial support. We would really like to thank all our customers old and new for continuing to support us through this difficult time.
“We’ve had some really encouraging messages from family members that are grateful elderly relatives are still getting hot meals delivered to them while they isolate. They are what help us to carry on doing what little we can until we find out more. Our last option is to look for new premises and start again.”