Controversial cemetery cafe still not making a profit – despite getting £400,000 of our cash

InspIrations Coffe House and Garden Centre.
InspIrations Coffe House and Garden Centre.

A council-run cafe in a cemetery, which caused controversy by being granted an alcohol licence, has not made a profit more than two years after opening, it has emerged.

Hartlepool Borough Council spent £280,000 to launch the Inspirations Coffee House, in Stranton Cemetery, in April 2013.

There were serious reservations expressed at the time by some councillors and members of the public that £400,000 was not a sound investment

Coun David Riddle

The scheme in the former lodge was a key part of a new garden centre development on the site in Tanfield Road and part of the council’s strategy to generate additional income.

Putting Hartlepool First councillor David Riddle said with staffing costs it was estimated the council had invested around £400,000 over the last two-and-a-half years.

At the last full council meeting Coun Riddle asked if it was making a profit and if the authority had plans for any similar schemes.

Coun Kevin Cranney, chair of the council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “No, it hasn’t made a profit. Most businesses do not start showing any sort of profit till after five years.”

Coun Cranney added: “Yes, we are looking at expanding the offer.”

But he did not go into any more detail.

Coun Cranney said Inspirations was partly responsible for a £400,000 Big Lottery grant being awarded to the Waverley Terrace Allotment project which supports people with learning difficulties and mental health problems.

“Without Inspirations we wouldn’t have successfully got that money because part of the bid was to link in the work at the Waverley with Inspirations to give people training and future employment opportunities and an outlet for the produce that Waverley is going to generate,” he said.

Coun Riddle said: “There were serious reservations expressed at the time by some councillors and members of the public that £400,000 was not a sound investment.

“If we had a reasonable business plan in the first place we may not have found ourselves with a £400,000 cafe that’s making a loss.”

Coun Thompson requested Inspirations’ accounts be presented to members to allay concerns.