Cafe owner grumbles about city of culture work

November 10, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

A grumbling cafe owner says a £25m makeover for the UK City of Culture is costing his business £800 a week.

Neil Egan at Simples Café, Trinity Square, Hull, says his business is suffering from a loss in trade due to building works (SWNS Group)

Neil Egan at Simples Café, Trinity Square, Hull, says his business is suffering from a loss in trade due to building works (SWNS Group)

Neil Egan has seen his venue, Simples Café, overshadowed by machinery as the space is given a facelift in preparation for celebrations.

But while most people are looking forward to Hull, East Yorks., taking the crown of UK City of Culture in 2017, Neil says his business may struggling to last until then.

The business owner says he is now unable to seat many customers outside and passersby can no longer easily walk in off the street.

Neil said: “The nearest passing trade can get is 30m away. From that distance, they can’t see if we’re open or not. We weren’t expecting or prepared for this kind of drop in trade.

“All people keep saying to me is, ‘It will be great when it’s finished’. I’m sure it will be, but we’ve got to somehow manage to still be trading by that point.”

The Trinity Square work is being carried out by contractor Eurovia on behalf of Hull City Council. Paving stones are being replaced with Yorkstone and granite setts.

Neil, who is a former construction worker, said he understood the disruption work could cause.

However, he said he was told in meetings before the project started that it would be done in phases rather than all at once.

Before building began, Simples had 20 outdoor seats as well as 12 indoors. The loss of almost two-thirds of that total space is having a serious impact, he said.

He is now struggling to meet the costs of running the premises, which is leased from the council.

Neil said: “I understand this is the most cost-effective way of doing things, but it’s not the procedure they said they’d take.

“They’re saving money but it’s costing us a fortune.

“The council has changed the programme, which is making it impossible for me to pay the rent on my council-owned property.”

Neil and business partner Paul Hunt opened Simples in August, with the aim of helping to revitalise the square.
RPY_SIMPLES_04The café had seen a steady upturn in trade until the work began about six weeks ago.

He said: “We weren’t making any profit anyway. Now we’re not making enough to pay the bills.

“We’ve been building up a regular customer base, with people really enjoying it. Now that’s gone, and they can’t get to us.”

Council officers had been sympathetic, Neil said. But he believes his only course of action is to use the authority’s official complaints procedure – and it could take more than 30 days for the issue to be resolved.

In the meantime, he said he had been told no more outdoor customer seating could be installed until the end of February.

The work is not due to be finished until November next year.

A Spokesman for Hull City Council said: “Hull is embarking on its biggest transformation for many years and, with tight timescales to adhere to, some disruption is to be expected.

“We are working hard to support businesses through these periods, with Hull Business Improvement District and with dedicated public liaison officers employed by Eurovia, acting as a point of contact for all retailers and businesses affected by the work.

“We are also installing additional signage in areas to signal that ‘businesses are open as usual’.

“While advance notice of works starting was provided, unfortunately, on this occasion, there was a breakdown in communication, which led to insufficient notice of the intention to work directly outside of the property at the same time as works removing a significant portion of Trinity Square.

“Eurovia has assured the council they have now put processes in place to ensure they will maintain regular contact and dialogue with the local shop owners and businesses, making them aware of any changes to the programme of works, as soon as possible.

“We have worked with Simples Café to create an outdoor seating area that can still be used.

“Works to provide a larger outdoor seating area are now being prioritised.

“The council is determined to create a thriving city centre residents and businesses can be proud of and we appreciate the patience of everyone throughout this time.”

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