Sheffield cafe forced out by costs

All change: Cream cafe in Broomhill, has closed down - and will reopen by the end of the month as a franchise of Costa coffee.
All change: Cream cafe in Broomhill, has closed down - and will reopen by the end of the month as a franchise of Costa coffee.
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AN INDEPENDENT cafe in a Sheffield suburb has closed its doors for the final time - with its owner blaming rising business rates partly for its demise.

Cream, on the corner of Crookes Road and Fulwood Road in Broomhill, was a popular spot with mums and babies, and groups of friends.

But the cafe has now closed and its windows have been whitewashed.

It will reopen at the end of November as a branch of the Costa coffee chain.

The cafe is the latest independent business affected by changes in Broomhill.

A few doors along, half-century old Williamson Hardware is moving to a smaller store to make way for Sainsbury’s supermarket, and a new Tesco is being opened near the RBS bank.

Cream boss Michael Robinson, who has sold his lease to Costa for the next 10 years, said business rates had risen by seven per cent last year, pushing the annual cost up to more than £20,000. Meanwhile, over the five years the cafe has been open, trade has dropped by 25 per cent.

“Rates have gone up year-on-year, but last year’s rise of seven per cent was the biggest and most noticeable,” he said. “I appealed to the council to be re-evaluated and was told we were paying a good rate. But with everything else going up too - heating, lighting, travel costs, the fluctuating price of coffee and sugar - it all became unsustainable.

“We have had no help from Sheffield Council. I feel there is no help for small businesses to stay open in Sheffield.”

Cream opened in 2007 in a former dry-cleaner’s.

Michael, aged 41, who owned the business with wife Mette, 40, said the landlord of the premises was not to blame as the rent had always remained the same.

“It’s had nothing to do with the rent,” he said.

“The landlord never increased the rent in all the time we were open. We had a rent review this year and it didn’t increase then either.

“Closure has been down to a lot of factors as well as rates - a lack of parking in Broomhill, the closure of Tapton Halls of Residence in Crookes which meant a drop in footfall from students coming down the hill, and the economic climate.

“Although we were always busy with customers, people weren’t necessarily spending much. They would come in, spend £1.75, and sit for three hours. For all that people wanted to sit and socialise with their friends, they didn’t spend a lot of money.”

Michael revealed Costa had been asking to buy his lease for over three years - and had been planning to open in premises opposite if he didn’t sell.

“It was a question of, do we cling on and stay here knowing that, and see our trade decrease even further? Or do we finally take the offer and cut our losses? We didn’t want to, but it had to be done.

“I’m sure a lot of people will be sad an independent cafe has closed down. But people always love something when it’s gone. There’s a lot of people who liked the idea of us but didn’t actually support us. If more people had supported us, and spent £5 when they came in instead of £1.75, we could have stayed.”

Michael said the Costa shop will be a Sheffield-based franchise rather than a national operation, and all 12 staff who worked at Cream have kept their jobs. They have transferred temporarily to Costa on Ecclesall Road and will return to Broomhill when the new cafe opens.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council cabinet member for finance, said business rates are set nationally and are not in the council’s control.

DO you think independent business is under threat in Sheffield? Email: letters@thestar.co.uk.