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 implementation of this project, would greatly improve our existing assets, hence increase customer satisfaction.
  • Ultimately the incorporation of this idea, will generate more income opportunities and therefore expand existing budgets.
  • If this project was not to be implemented, financially Bristol City Council could loose an opportunity to raise higher incomes as well as continuing to provide an incomplete or/and poor service to the public.

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.

  • In which other Bristol park can you find such excellent organic cakes, baked daily and made with locally sourced, free range eggs?
  • How many other park cafes serve their hot drinks in 'china' cups?
  • Where else can you find a cafe run and staffed by local people who really care about the park community?
  • How many other park cafes do you know that bake birthday cakes for some of the less fortunate members of the park community?
  • Which other park cafe throws an annual Halloween party for both children and adults and is willing to open at night to offer refreshements for special events, such as the recent film show?

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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Comment by Jenny Etches on October 1, 2010 at 6:35
I would like to add my comments particularly as I dont think I can make the meeting.

Previous to Fay and Karen we had an over-priced ice-cream van run by a grumpy woman who short-changed the children. Now we have a delightful cafe that truly reflects the nature of the neighbourhood and the users of the park. To say that the provision is inadequate is insulting to say the least.

St Andrews Park cannot be compare to destination parks like Oldbury Court or Blaise which are g
huge and attract visitors all year round. It would not be cost-effective for anyone to take on runnng a cafe all year round in St Andrews Park. Fay and Karen can react to the seasonal and 'fair-weather' nature of the users of the park. Their arrival in spring-time and disappearnce in autumn reflects the nature of the seasonal use of the park. During the winter months local people and vistors use the MANY MANY cafes on the Gloucester Road - go and count them! Again this is not the situation in Oldbury Court or Blaise.

I would like to finish by saying that I cannot believe that any other cafe could provide what Fay and Karen provide: organic cakes, tea in proper cups and saucers, an understanding and knowledge of the local area, halloween parties and a cheery smile. We dont want tea in paper cups and burgers for our kids - and we dont want a 'semi-permament' structure.
Comment by sarah mcmurchie on September 22, 2010 at 19:25
Hi Ches- I too agree with you.
I love the present cafe and the people who run it.
it could not be better.
the food is excellent, and the atmosphere is quite magical.
I love the way they come and then go.
I think we should fight to protect what we have got!

It is very clear to me that BCC are not interested in how this particular cafe works for us.
they are just interested in a financial opportunity for themselves.
all the points you have made are valid.
also if a permanent struscture was put in place it would be subject to graffitti and possibly vandalism.
something else to worry about...

thanks for raising awareness on this issue.
best wishes Sarah McMurchie
Comment by Ches Chesney on September 22, 2010 at 10:17
Hi admin (I presume that's not your real name!),
I think it is important that people have had a chance to think carefully about the situation with the cafe before they arrive (or don't arrive) at the meeting on 4th October. Is there a way of emailing my post to the Friends, or at least drawng their attention to the situation?
Comment by admin on September 22, 2010 at 9:00
I agree with everything you have written Ches.
Change is not always required. We could end up with poor service, high prices, low quality products and a facility that does not have the ability or wish to serve the local park users.
I am happy to post up a questionnaire/survey on the website if that helps.

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