SANDPIPER Coffee Lounge staff are waiting to find out if they will have jobs this Christmas.
The closure of the Midland Gate Shopping Centre café triggered an outcry of community support this week when centre management forced its closure over issues of unpaid rent on Tuesday.
In the 24 hours before the closure, more than 400 people filled a ten-page petition with signatures of support for the continuation of the small business.
Negotiations on the future of the café have been ongoing with centre management this week.
Members of the public became aware of the closure via a notification on the Café’s Facebook page.
“Some of you may already know but after over 30 years of being a cafe at Midland Gate we will be closing down,” the post said.
“This came with much shock as it wasn’t a decision made by us and we are deeply saddened by this.”
The post has received 386 comments and 873 shares.
Speaking with Echo News on Monday café supervisor Lisa Hearne admitted the café was overdue in its rent but that the redevelopment of the centre had severely affected profits.
“We made it very clear to centre management that there needed to be some form of compensation because our sales dramatically reduced during the redevelopment,” she said.
“The last offer we had was a 50 per cent rent rebate.
“We’ve had lawyers involved, our books audited, we seem to do everything they asked but they’ve never come to the party to cover our loss of sales which far exceeds 50 per cent rent.”
Sandpiper was previously positioned as the first store on the right at the former eastern entry of Midland Gate.
The eastern entry way was closed to foot traffic during the redevelopment.
“Staff are devastated, and a lot of the customers are devastated, some of our customers have been coming for 30 years,” Mrs Hearne said.
“We know everyone’s name, we know what they order, they’re like family.”
She said she was overwhelmed by the support shown through the petition, and even by the suggestion of a GoFundMe page.
“I don’t know what will come of the petition, it’s lovely everyone loves us but at the end of the day it’s financial and we’re not sure what’s going to happen.
“We’re in the unknown.”
Midland Gate centre manager Alison Broadbent said discussions with the café owners for the continuation of the business were ongoing.
“We’re working with the team at Sandpiper Café as they assess their options to continue trading at Midland Gate,” she said.
“Due to the nature of the discussions we cannot provide any more detail at this stage.
“We look forward to updating our customers, retailers and the community when there’s more to share.”
Mrs Hearne’s mother-in-law, and café owner, Irene Hearne, was overcome with emotion on Monday when asked how she felt about the forthcoming closure.
By Claire Ottaviano