Options on the table for future of Hartlepool cafe

Hartlepool's Summerhill Country Park and Visitor Centre.
Hartlepool's Summerhill Country Park and Visitor Centre.

A cafe at a popular Hartlepool attraction will come under review next week.

Options for the future of catering at Summerhill Visitors Centre will go before councillors.

In March last year, the council agreed for its in-house catering team to run Summerhill’s cafe for a year.

Council meeting papers show the cafe made £11,650 profit on food sales for May 2016-17.

But after staff and other running costs, it made an overall loss of £5,347.

Councillors are being encouraged to let the council’s catering team continue to run the cafe until the end of August this year.

It is proposed to look for a not for profit, charity or community provider to take over from next spring.

A third option would be to close the cafe altogether and use vending machines.

A report of Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, interim director of public health, said: “Like any café business, the Summerhill facility depends on a sufficiently high level of footfall to generate the required income to cover its costs.

“It is evident that the popularity of the outdoor park area and therefore the numbers of visitors to the café itself is predominantly influenced by the weather.”

Between last July and August, the cafe took about £900 a week.

But it did not break even from September or in April and May when the cafe reopened after the winter.

The report adds: “From the trading data set out above it is felt that the Summerhill café can only be a viable trading proposition for the in house catering team during the main summer season, specifically the period running from the May Bank Holiday week to the end of August.”

It is hoped an outside provider would be able to open the cafe over a longer period of the year. One organisation is said to be interested and is currently putting together a business case.

The report added: “The lack of a coffee shop could have a negative impact on the number of visitors and patrons at Summerhill, thereby decreasing income.”

Summerhill Visitors Centre had just over 137,000 visitors in 2016/17.

A decision is due to be made by the council’s Finance and Policy Committee when it meets at 10am in the civic centre on Monday.