CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Coffee shop working with disabled young people faces closure after missing out on grants

“Covid has just meant the complete destruction of our business"

11 June, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Harry George founder of Hidden Coffee 

THE owner of a charitable coffee shop in Camden Town says he is weeks away from being forced to close after missing out on business grants.

Harry George, 28, set up Hidden Coffee inside Camden Road station last August but has lost trade due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Also known as SEND Coffee, the coffee house is a social enterprise working with young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Mr George, who has lived in Camden all his life, said they have managed to pay their suppliers and staff but have no money for rent.

He did not get a government grant because the property, which is owned by another company, has a rateable value of over £51,000.

“So far, it has felt like we’ve fallen through the cracks,” said Mr George. “Covid has just meant the complete destruction of our business.

“When the lockdown happened we closed but our insurance told us we weren’t eligible for any claims as we could still be doing takeaway, so that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. But we are only earning around 20-30 per cent of what we expected to earn in this period.

“Our landlords would not give us a rent break but have given us a rent reduction of 25 per cent and been understanding and let us pay late.”

He added: “Our only option was the grant which I really thought we would get as every other coffee shop I know in Camden has had it, but it seems like the council is refusing to give us the money on a technicality.”

Hidden Coffee had set up a fundraising page to try to raise £6,000, the minimum needed to remain open for the next few months, they have so far raised almost £3,000.

“Friends, family and customers have been so generous but the reality is if we don’t get a cash injection in the immediate future we may be out of here by August at the latest,” said Mr George.

Camden Council announced yesterday (Wednesday) that a new discretionary fund worth £3.64million had now been made available to support small and micro businesses.

Regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said: “Businesses like SEND Coffee who may operate from shared workspace have so far missed out on this critical support.

“However, after pressing the government to provide further funding for our businesses, Camden has now been allocated over £3m that will be used specifically to support small and micro businesses that face ongoing high property-related costs or have suffered a significant fall in income.

“From speaking to local businesses we know that demand for this funding will exceed the money we have been allocated and so we will need to give careful consideration to ensure that this funding can make a difference where it is needed most.”

Donate to Hidden Coffee, here.

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