Heartbreak as Claydon Community Cafe suddenly closes amid rent dispute

Jill and Ian Booth. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

Jill and Ian Booth. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL - Credit: Archant

The sudden closure of a much-loved community cafe in Claydon has rocked customers and left the owner “devastated”.

Jill and Ian Booth at the launch of Claydon Community Cafe last year. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Jill and Ian Booth at the launch of Claydon Community Cafe last year. Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

The cafe was launched by former teaching assistant Jill Booth in June last year, but came to an abrupt end today due to a dispute over the rent.

Mrs Booth said she had been “forced out” of Claydon and Barham Community Centre because the new lease agreement offered was “unworkable and unreasonable”.

She added: “It was the hub of the community which has now been taken away – where will those people go now?

“It’s all been so rapid. We are not one of those here today gone tomorrow types, we talk to our customers and we haven’t had that opportunity to say thank you or farewell.”

Mrs Booth said she and husband Ian were “absolutely devastated” by the closure.

Kerrie Vipond, of Great Blakenham, used to go to the cafe twice a week with her son Kobi, four, before he started school full-time.

Most Read

She said: “The whole community are devastated.

“I think they have brought a huge amount to the community. It was a place for the elderly, families, people with mental illness – it brought everyone together.

“It will be a big loss.”

Customer Lisa Wilsher added: “It was a sanctuary for all, young and old, to come together and it was the heart of our village.

“I’ve lived here over 10 years and before Jill’s endeavour Claydon didn’t feel very friendly or like a typical village community – Jill and Ian completely changed that and it will be a tragic loss to many.”

Cheryl Tavendale, who lives in Claydon, said: “It is not just a friendly place to go for a coffee, it is where people get to meet their neighbours and other people in the village.

“You got to meet other mums from the school and friendships evolve from the community cafe.

“It really brought the village together. It is such a shame.”

Tonight, a protest is due to take place outside the centre, run by charity Claydon and Barham Local Community Trust.

Manager Michelle Parmwell said the trust had offered the cafe a “peppercorn rent” to begin with but needed to up the rates to cover overheads.

She added: “We have got to the stage where we can’t continue to support a business.

“After trying to reach an agreement with the cafe we have been told that they will not negotiate with us.

“They are saying we have chucked them out but we are saying we can’t carry on funding you, you are a business and as a charity that goes against what we are there to do.

“We have had some issues both sides with communication and I have to admit to that, but at the end of the day we never wanted it to cease, we wanted to work with them to ensure there was a future for them.”