With the bowling club consultation fiasco still smoldering, once again we are faced with having to defend ourselves and our community against the 'blitz' of Bristol City Council's approach to 'improvement'. Perhaps what we really need in the park is an air-raid shelter!
For those who haven't yet heard, "BCC Parks dept are planning to offer 5 year contracts for semi-permanent kiosks, and there is an option for three of Bristol parks to have these cafés."
St Andrews Parks has been offered this questionable 'opportunity'.
"Why questionable?", you may ask. Because a key objective of the proposal is:
“To incorporate suitable catering facilities in three of our major 'urban' parks, which could in turn provide a substantive income opportunity to the department as well as providing a welcoming and more complete service to our Parks”.
Notice that the primary purpose of this move is to "provide a substantive income", not to the park or the cafe managers, but to Bristol City Council. The secondary purpose is to provide "a welcoming and more complete service to our Parks.”
The second part sounds positive, doesn't it? But please hear me out before you draw your conclusions.
Before we decide whether or not it would be a good idea to have a permanent cafe building in the park, let's consider what the consequences might be.
With the construction of the new cafe building, BCC Parks intends to offer a five-year contract to the whomever wins the tender to run the cafe. This means that if we discover that we are not satisfied with the way the cafe is run, or what it does or doesn't sell, we'll be stuck with it for five years.
The council will stipulate that the new cafe must be open almost every day of the year.
I understand that it is the experience of the current cafe owners that St Andrews is, for the most part, a 'fair weather' park. What I mean by this is that when the weather is good lots of people may come to the park, but when it is wet or cold, the number is relatively low.
For a cafe to function all year round, its income must support its staff all year round. For this to happen, the income from the busy seasons must be enough to cover the costs of both those times and the rest of the year when the cafe would be making a daily loss.
With current costs and levels of income, along with the cost of the cafe licence for St Andrews, this would be vitually impossible. Furthermore, the council's statement suggests that they will be looking for an even higher licence fee. So, in order to survive, savings would have to be made. Savings can be made by cutting the quality of what is sold, changing the items on sale, or reducing staff costs.
With the current cafe, staff costs are already at a minimum. So, we have to ask ourselves whether we really want a semi-permanent kiosk, if it means lower quality food or a completely different (and lower quality) menu. This may well also mean losing our current cafe team.
The following is an extract from the council's Outline Business Case for the proposal:
Reason(s) why this project is needed:
The first and third of the reasons stated above are perfect examples of the flawed thinking of the proposers of this scheme:
There is an unquestioned presumption that a new semi-permanent cafe will, by its very existence, increase customer satisfaction. Furthermore, there is the suggestion that the current cafe provides an incomplete or poor service. Are either of these assumptions true?
Clearly, Bristol City Council's priorities put economic gain before what may be best for the community of St Andrews Park.
Personally, I think that we are extremely fortunate in St Andrews Park to have been blessed with the cafe that we have.
Please think very carefully about this and act to prevent any decision that might risk the loss of our very special cafe.
Come and support the cafe at the meeting on October 4th at St Andrews Bowls Club in Derby Road (not the one in the park, but across the zebra crossing at the top of the park).
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