16 jobs lost as cafe closes

Staff at Eugene's Middleton Grange Shopping Centre (rear left to right) Charlotte Collings, Alison Flounders, Margaret Downes, Christine Yellow and Bethan Wilkinson (front left to right) Karen Featherstone, Leanne Johnson, Caroline Readman and Pauline Horseman
Staff at Eugene's Middleton Grange Shopping Centre (rear left to right) Charlotte Collings, Alison Flounders, Margaret Downes, Christine Yellow and Bethan Wilkinson (front left to right) Karen Featherstone, Leanne Johnson, Caroline Readman and Pauline Horseman

A POPULAR cafe has closed after nine years of trading with the loss of 16 jobs.

But bosses at Eugene’s Cafe, based at the back of the former Westgate store in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, have pledged to bounce back.

The family-run cafe was due to move to a new location at the opposite end of the centre. But that isn’t happening now because the business is struggling to finance the cost of fitting out the unit.

Bosses say they have gone bust due to costs of the relocation, which they claim was going to cost them up to £270,000.

But landlord PPG says it is seeking legal advice over Eugene’s failure to open the new unit, despite signing a deal last December.

Shopping centre bosses say they created the new unit, near Subway, by merging two empty units which Eugene’s would then fit out at its own cost and open for business.

But cafe bosses struggled to finance the cost and have decided not to open the new venture.

Eugene’s Cafe stopped trading on Wednesday. Staff spent yesterday packing up equipment.

Bosses have pledged to open a new cafe outside the shopping centre but within the town centre area and hope to re-employ the staff.

Manager Martin Downes, 62, said: “We had a figure in mind for fitting out the shop because we have done it before. But it was going to cost up to £270,000.

“The costs kept spiralling and we have had to pull the plug on it.

“It is very sad because we are a successful business and we have around 200 people from all walks of life coming in every day.

“It has been hard being based at the back of an empty unit but our customers are very loyal.

“They have been fantastic and I would like to thank them and the staff who are excellent.”

Mr Downes added: “We will be reopening elsewhere in the town centre. The phoenix will rise from the ashes.”

A PPG spokesman, who said they had allowed Eugene’s to continue trading from its existing premises, said: “PPG handed over the new unit to Eugene’s in June 2012. However, Eugene’s has struggled to finance the cost of fitting out the unit.

“Although PPG worked with Eugene’s over the summer to explore a number of different solutions, Eugene’s has now decided that it cannot afford to open the new cafe.

“PPG is disappointed with Eugene’s decision. PPG is confident that the new unit would be a success and had committed approximately £275,000 of its own money to the project.

“PPG will now seek legal advice in respect of Eugene’s failure to open the new unit.”

There is a separate business, also known as Eugene’s, run by the family in Seaham, which is still operating.