Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Coffee shop owner to sell up after noise complaints

THE owner of a Wargrave café has put the business up for sale after being told that he must restrict

THE owner of a Wargrave café has put the business up for sale after being told that he must restrict its opening hours.

Tony Colborne opened the coffee shop in High Street in February last year.

But when he applied to Wokingham Borough Council for permission to change the use of the premises from two shops in October his closest neighbours called for the business to be closed down.

David and Caroline Ellwood complained that noise from the café was a “constant interruption” and sometimes woke their three-year-old child during the night.

Now Mr Colborne has decided to sell up after learning the council is to prevent the café being open during the evening.

The business and accommodation above it are on the market for £649,500.

Mr Colborne said: “The council has not sent me the final confirmation but the outcome is that they are going to grant the consent but they are going to restrict the hours.

“We will not be able to open beyond 7.30pm so we won’t be able to do our Friday evening bistro.

“That is possibly something to do with my decision. When you try to run a business it is hard enough anyway without the council on your back and when people write letters.

“We only do Friday evenings and most people are gone by 10pm anyway.”

He said that after holding a cabaret evening, he received a noise abatement notice from the council, banning any clapping, singing or stamping.

“These things are a bit of fun once every three months,” he said. “I try to make things interesting but when you are battling against things like that it does take the edge off for me.”

Mr Colborne, of Wyatt Close, Wargrave, bought the premises in June 2008 and, after carrying out renovations, operated a florists and post office.

In May 2009, the shops became an interior design business but this closed in July 2011. The coffee shop, which has a licence to sell alcohol, is being advertised for sale by Adams & Co, of Maidenhead.

The premises is double-fronted and has a kitchen and preparation areas at the back and a cellar that is currently used for storage.

There is a full-time chef as well as six part-time staff working at the coffee shop.

The advert says the café has an “enviable” location and is an “ideal lifestyle business” for a sole proprietor or a husband-and-wife team.

It says the business has a turnover of £16,000 per month but that “in our opinion there is potential for further growth”.

Mr Colborne said: “This is a really strong, viable business. If I was 10 years older I would like to keep it but I am a single father with 14-year-old twin girls and I also spend a lot of time abroad. If someone came and lived in the flat upstairs and ran it, I think it would be so much better.

“If they were here all the time they would keep an eye on all the little things.

“I am such a perfectionist and if I walk in and see a fingerprint on the window it just drives me mad.

“When I come down here, which is about once a week, I always moan at people for having too many staff and throwing away too much food. I feel like I bring a negative vibe to it.”

Mr Colborne said he would be “sad” if the business did not remain as a coffee shop.

“There is a lot of hard work that has gone into it to create what is here now,” he said.

“I think it needs to continue. I imagine an old couple living upstairs and making soup during the day. A lot of people retiring now still need an income. They could work from 8am to 4pm and still have a lot of independence.

“We are not talking about deliveries at 6am and trying to throw out people at midnight like in a pub. This is a pleasurable place to be and it is really great for the village that the café is here.

“I have lived in Wargrave a long time and never knew anyone but just by being here I now know so many people and I have realised what a nice community it is.

“The café is a lovely little business and it earns good money. Now it is up and running I would like to move on and do new things. I am seeing this as quite a positive thing and I am looking forward to being a customer here.”

The application received 53 letters of support and three objections. In a letter to the council, the Ellwoods said: “The issue is the everyday noise generated from the premises being used as a café/meeting/private hire venue, not just the noise from one-off and live music events.

“We hear everything that takes place in the adjoining rooms downstairs, and to a lesser extent upstairs, not only private conversations but as people come and go, pulling out chairs and moving furniture.

“The downstairs rooms can get very busy at weekends and the noise levels rise as more alcohol is consumed in the evenings.”

Adam Sokolowski, who lives in High Street with his wife, said they supported use of the premises as a café during the day but objected to events at night. He said: “We have experienced first-hand the noise intrusion from the Old Post Office during their evening events.

“Live music events are wholly inappropriate considering the construction of the building, floors and walls.”

But Philip and Rebecca Beard, also of High Street, said: “The Old Post Office has brought some life back into the high street. It provides a great atmosphere for the villagers and offers an alternative to the pubs.”

Isabel Savage said: “I live across the road from the coffee shop and I have a child aged nine. The shop does not pose any noise disruption day or night to myself or my family. In fact, it is a massive asset to the village as it brings the community together.”

Wargrave Parish Council did not object to the application.

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