Fury over closure of OAP tearooms

FURIOUS senior citizens in Ipswich are fuming today after hearing that their tearoom had closed.And without any alternative site, it looks as if the town's Age Concern tearoom has finally run out of hope.

FURIOUS senior citizens in Ipswich reacted with fury today after hearing that their tearoom had closed.

And without any alternative site, it looks as if the town's Age Concern tearoom has finally run out of hope.

The tearoom had to pull out of its temporary home in the Tower café at the top of the Tower Ramparts shopping centre after the management decided it could no longer sustain the loses.

Tony Nicholl, managing director of the Tower café, said although the Age Concern tearoom had attracted customers, it was losing £300 a week.

He said: "We cannot afford to sustain that. We've had talks with the council about subsidising the tearoom but they weren't prepared to help and we could not sustain those losses.

"There were 300 to 350 people a day using the tearoom, so the subsidy would have only amounted to about 10p a person, but the borough was unable to support that."

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He was sorry to have to ask the Age Concern volunteers who ran the tearoom to leave – but hoped the customers would continue to use the Tower café.

He said: "We are introducing an over-55s menu with a limited choice which we will serve in this café.

"But the café itself will not be exclusively for the over-55s and we will have our own staff running it."

Mr Nicholl appreciated how devastating the news would be for the tearoom regulars: "We are very sorry about this, but we could not continue losing £300 a week," he said.

Ipswich council said not enough people had been using the tearoom to make it successful.

A council spokesman said: "We are sorry that the new venture has not been supported by the community.

"The charity, ourselves, and the caterers have all worked very hard to provide a first class facility.

"The sad fact is not enough customers have been using it, to make it a viable venture.

"We will do all we can to try and help Age Concern in the future."

VOLUNTEERS at the tearooms today said they were as devastated as their customers.

Natasha Terry said: "It all comes down to money – it seems as if the people don't matter any more."

And Margaret Gooding was furious: "It seems as if they aren't interested in the older generation – this is the social centre for a lot of people.

"If they don't come here they may not be able to meet up with their friends anywhere," she said.

Regular customer Kath Fletton, from Elmcroft Road, was also angry.

She said: "The council don't want us here. I'm disgusted that they aren't prepared to spend a bit of money on us. First they were going to give us a new tearoom in the church, then they moved us from pillar to post, now they're not prepared to help us stay her."

Her view was supported by Iain Dunnett who felt the council were treating elderly people very badly.

"Look at all the parks with their smart new play areas," he said. "They cost hundreds of thousands of pounds but they can't afford £300 a week for the old people.

"I've got nothing against spending money on children, good luck to them, but it all seems very unfair."

Age Concern supervisor Lin Smy said the first she had known about the closure was on Wednesday night.

She said: "I knew there were negotiations, but I thought things were going well. Then we heard the news – everyone is very upset."

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