A HEARTBROKEN cafe owner has clashed with the council as she pulled down the shutters on her city cafe on Sunday.
In her last statement on Facebook, Jo Millen, owner of Florence Park Cafe, said: “It is with a broken heart that I announce that we will be closing our café forever on Sunday, August 5, 2018.
“We have tried really hard to keep our heads above the water. The cold start to the season followed by extreme hot weather has kept customers away. We don’t blame you, lack of parking, no shade, hot metal play equipment etc.
“We have been running at a loss to provide the community with a café and meeting place. Sadly, we have not been supported and Chichester District Council have not renewed our lease with no reason given.”
However, a district council spokesperson said: “We extended our agreement with the owners of Florence Park Cafe at the end of last year and this runs until October 31, 2018.
“The owners of the cafe have not started discussions with us about arrangements following this time and so we are confused and surprised by their statement.
“As far as we are concerned, they are due to trade in the park until at least the end of October. When we renewed their agreement last year we also amended the terms to take account of concerns they raised about trading in the quiet months, and so we have done everything we can to try and be as accommodating as possible. We have spoken to the owners and have reassured them of these facts.”
The popular cafe in Florence Road, between Bognor Road and the B2144, had been run by Jo for three years.
Her statement continued: “I would like to thank each and every one of you for your custom, support, stories and surprises along our journey. We will sadly not be here to see the wonderful wheelchair accessible swing be installed that we worked tirelessly to fundraise for. We hope you enjoy it when it finally arrives.”
Jo has recently opened a new business in The Arcade, Bognor Regis, called Rainbows. The shop sells pancakes, milkshakes, waffles and sundaes.
Speaking to the Chichester Post, Jo said: “We began selling milkshakes at Florence Park cafe and they were quickly outselling our bacon sarnies. We knew that Bognor Regis didn’t have anything like it and saw the opportunity for a more stable business.
“We had been looking at The Arcade for a few years and explored other ideas before opening the cafe in Florence Park. The units were still available having run the cafe for three years.
“We opened on June 5, 2018, and business has been booming! We have benefited enormously from the sunshine this summer and quickly had to recruit more staff to keep up with the number of customers visiting daily.”
Cllr Jane Kilby, of Chichester City Council, said: “I am really sorry that the owners of the cafe in Florence Park have decided to close.
“The cafe was very popular for many local people of all ages, it was a meeting place and a very friendly environment, The council and I value the cafe facility in Florence Park and it is something we are keen to retain and will be working together for a cafe to continue.”
Cllr Les Hixson added: ” What a shame this is. All of the east ward councillors will do everything we can to find a good way forward and we are determined to keep this successful shop open as is a big asset to the constituents.”