Manea café owner makes appeal to government after heartbreak decision to close
A café owner who has made the heartbreaking decision to close is urging the government to look at how it supports small businesses.
Caroline Barnes announced on Friday she is closing Café 29 in Manea High Street on November 4 after three years of trading.
The café, which Caroline ran alongside an Airbnb cottage, was launched just as the covid lockdown was announced in 2020.
Despite the rocky start the business thrived as Caroline operated it as a takeaway business and even offered a home delivery service for those reluctant to leave their homes during the pandemic.
Caroline said: “It was always a dream of mine to run a coffee shop, and to do it here in the village where our family has such strong links made it extra special.
“But unfortunately it has not attracted the amount of trade needed to keep going. If I’m honest we have kept going far longer than we perhaps should have, but it was never about making money.
“All we have wanted to do was balance the books and provide an asset for the community, and to some extent, we have done that as we have several organisations that have used us for their meetings.
“But there comes a point where you have to draw a line and say we can’t keep going on like this, losing money month after month, and unfortunately that is where we are now at.”
Caroline said the decision was made all the harder because of the staff members who will be losing their jobs.
She went on to praise the government for the support businesses like hers received during the pandemic, which ensured it could keep going.
But she said small businesses are facing an increasing number of challenges, with rising energy costs and the cost of raw ingredients which she said in some cases have risen as much as 50 per cent.
“Obviously it has been a real balancing act, we have had to pass on some of those costs to our customers, but at the same time we realise that people are facing the same issues and can’t necessarily afford the luxury of coming out to eat and so have tried to keep our prices as low as we can,” said Caroline.
However, she said the biggest challenge for her was the VAT businesses like hers are forced to pay.
Caroline said: “It is a real bugbear for me. As a business we have to have a certain level of turn-over just to operate, but that puts us over the threshold for paying VAT and that is a huge bill.
“If the government was to raise that threshold by just £20,000 or £30,000 a year it would make such a huge difference to businesses like mine.
“Every day we are facing a deficit – we need to take at least £500 every day we are open just to break even and pay our bills, but obviously the majority of days we are just not doing that because there are not enough customers coming through our doors.”
She continued: “Oils and fats have risen by 50 percent this year, which is ridiculous. Our electricity bills are horrendous and then we have seen our raw ingredients going up all the time too.
“The government really needs to look at the way it can support small businesses like mine, so they can keep going otherwise I fear there will be a lot more going the same way.
“Small businesses are the life-blood of the country, and in communities like ours they offer so much – not just as a meeting place, but as an employment opportunity. We have had a number of trainees come through here and for young people without their own transport that opportunity can mean a lot.
“I have loved every minute of running the café, and I know I am really going to miss all those who have supported me over the past three years, but sadly there is only so long you can keep going without covering your costs.”