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Popular Waterfront café closing after death of founder

PUBLISHED: 11:30 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:09 30 October 2019

Alexia McEwen and Anna Matthews at the La Tour Cycle Cafe in 2017  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Alexia McEwen and Anna Matthews at the La Tour Cycle Cafe in 2017 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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La Tour Cycle Café - one of Ipswich's most popular eateries and community venues on the town's Waterfront - is closing.

In September, a sign appeared suggesting La Tour Cycle Cafe would be re-opening - but now its owner Anna Matthews has announced it is closing Picture: ARCHANTIn September, a sign appeared suggesting La Tour Cycle Cafe would be re-opening - but now its owner Anna Matthews has announced it is closing Picture: ARCHANT

Co-founder Anna Matthews said the decision was made with a "heavy heart", after hopes of a merger with the Museum Street café fell through.

Her husband Cliff, with whom she founded the business, died from cancer in March - and she is now taking some time out to focus on her family.

But mum-of-six Anna hopes the café and how it was run leaves a legacy - to inspire others to set up similar community-run venues, and possibly even encourage someone take over the café itself.

"There was a hope that the cooperative that had been found was going to take the (Waterfront) space, unfortunately for various reasons that didn't work out," she said.

Anna Matthews, owner of La Tour Cycle Cafe  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAnna Matthews, owner of La Tour Cycle Cafe Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"I came back in September planning on possibly doing something, but I then had to have emergency surgery unexpectedly.

"I had some time to reflect and it is with a heavy heart I realised that for me, at the moment, it (the café) is not sustainable.

"There are a lot of memories, a lot of them emotional. The space, the whole project, was very much Cliff."

MORE: Cycle cafe owner's widow tackles taboo of death at celebration of husband's life

She added: "I have four children that are still very dependent on me. And giving that much to a community takes an awful lot out of you."

Cliff Matthews and wife Anna during the SPILL performance festival in Ipswich last year  Picture: Lizzy MatthewsCliff Matthews and wife Anna during the SPILL performance festival in Ipswich last year Picture: Lizzy Matthews

Popular cyclist Cliff, a former member of the Wolsey Road Club, was a chartered chemical engineer.

He was also one of the driving forces behind the nearby Sterling Suffolk complex of high-tech and energy-efficient greenhouses - producing a huge crop of home-grown tomatoes.

In April, the café hosted a celebration of Cliff's life - with his coffin laid inside a teepee.

MORE: Tributes to Cliff Matthews - the man behind La Tour Cycle Café in Ipswich

Anna now hopes the venue, which originally opened opposite St Mary Le Tower church in August 2015, will pave the way for more projects like it.

"This is not to say that I believe that projects like this are not important," she said.

"We were very grateful to the building's owners allowing us to operate in the way we did, we didn't have any rental agreement, it was slack space. I do believe that's the future of these sorts of projects, hopefully it paves the way for somebody to do something similar.

"It's a great model, I hope this starts a conversation about slack space, and how to make them sustainable. I hope that is the café's legacy.

She added: "This is what I want to do for my family. Cliff is gone, I want to move forward and focus, it is time to pause."

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