Northampton cafe owner next to Covid-19 testing centre files complaint after claiming he 'cannot reasonably' open

Cafe Track was set to reopen for the first time since March this week.

Tuesday, 4th August 2020, 2:04 pm
Cafe Track says they have decided not to reopen following the arrival of Northampton's Covid-19 testing centre.

The owner of a social enterprise cafe on the Market Square says he "sees no way to reopen" as a neighbour of Northampton's walk-in Covid-19 test centre.

Cafe Track was set to reopen on Monday (August 3) for the first time since March with a plan to achieve social distancing with tables and seating outside.

But after arriving at the store on Sunday to restock, director Tom Cliffe has called off the cafe's return and has filed a complaint with the council because he claims there was "no warning as to the size and scale" of the town centre's testing centre, which is approximately 10 yards from the shop's door.

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Last week, the borough council established Northampton's walk-in Covid-19 testing centre on the Market Square, which Councillor Jonathan Nunn said would be in the town "for the foreseeable future".

A spokesperson for the borough council said: "We understand that this is a difficult situation and we understand the inconvenience it might cause to surrounding businesses.

“It is vital that we help address the current public health emergency in Northampton, which means providing a testing facility in an easily accessed part of town, closest to the areas most affected.

“If we fail to bring down the town’s infection rate, there is a possibility that we will be put into local lockdown which could have far worse consequences in the longer term.

“We are in direct contact with the owners of Café Track and will be looking to see if there are any measures we can take that would help ease the situation for them and any affected businesses.”

Tom said: "I can't as a reasonable business owner see how I can put tables outside when it's so close to an area where lots of people who are potentially contagious gather.

"We are a cafe catering for autistic individuals who are also on staff, who are very vulnerable from our point of view and who have had an especially difficult time during the lockdown.

"Nowhere in our risk assessments did we factor in having something like this yards from the cafe."

Tom says the cafe can only seat a maximum of six people with social distancing. The business was relying on using outdoor seating to accommodate customers, but he says this is no longer possible.

The social enterprise cafe is also home to a mental health crisis cafe on Mondays. Tom says he has also postponed these while he finds a different venue.

Tom said: "I have no idea how long it's going to be there. It could be for months.

"We've been closed since March and we spent money on stock to reopen today that will go to waste.

"Some people might say 'you're only saying this because it's outside your business'. And I see why we need these facilities. But I do not agree with the location."