A BELOVED community café in Southborough which was forced to close due to financial pressures could soon have a new lease of life, in the form of an Italian restaurant.
Business partners Angela Swain and Egidio Rosa wish to retain the not-for-profit status of the Bliss Café in order to ensure the premises remains a community centre for people in the town.
Ms Swain said they were inspired to step in when they heard of the café’s closure from members of the Pembury-based charity Pepenbury, which supports people with learning difficulties, and with whom she has close connections.
“We want to run it exactly as it was before, as a non-profit charity to help vulnerable people. Now the café is closed, many of its previous disadvantaged customers now have nowhere to go,” Ms Swain said, adding: “I have met many of the café’s users and they are absolutely charming people, but we want to act fast before they disperse and go elsewhere.”
Helping to support their business case is Mr Rosa’s background.
The former manager of the now-closed Grosvenor Road restaurant Divizia has a history of running restaurants in his native Italy that offer programs to help train up vulnerable people and those with special needs.
It is a model the pair wish to replicate in the new establishment, and hope to be able to take on fully-paid staff from among the previous Café Bliss clientele.
His ability to manage a restaurant is also an asset.
“Elaine Laurence [the previous owner] did a fantastic job running the place for eight years, but she had to do it all alone. Hopefully we can make a success of it with the resources of two people and Egidio’s organisational skills,” Ms Swain said.
The partners, want to include a shop to sell Italian produce in the establishment, say the building’s landlord is happy for them to move in and they have already bought most of the equipment form the previous occupant.
Talks with letting agents about securing the lease are ongoing, but Ms Swain hopes Mr Rosa will be able to fire up the pizza oven within weeks.