Community café fights to survive

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St Monans’ Harbour Howff café may be forced to close due to a downturn in takings.

The charity and social enterprise, which provides a range of services to the community as well as volunteering and training opportunities, has admitted that it has just experienced a “dire” winter period.

Since it opened in 2007, the Howff has worked in partnership with a sister organisation, ENeRGI, a group which provides services for people who have or have had mental health problems, and their carers.

Elaine Fox, a project manager for ENeRGI, told the Mail: “At the moment we’re very concerned about being able to go into the next financial year and on into summer.

“We’re going to have to look to see if the café is sustainable.

“The current economy has really hit us hard and we had a dire winter.

“A lot of hard work goes into the café and a lot of volunteer hours, but we’re finding it difficult to break even.”

The Howff came to be after the previous café in the village had closed down in 2006.

However, the local community rallied in an effort to maintain some sort of facility, so, after a series of meetings, a steering group was elected to work with ENeRGI to open and develop the Howff as a social enterprise.

The Howff’s own income, donations, and the voluntary time of unpaid workers and grants from charitable trusts presently pays for its running, with the café eventually breaking even for the first time in 2009-10.

But it has noticed a slide in the months since then, with genuine fears now being raised for its long term viability.

Elaine added: “We introduced a community card which gives people on low incomes half price but that hasn’t really helped.

“We offer volunteering and training to people and local groups use it in the evenings.

“But at the moment it’s a real struggle to keep it going.”

In keeping with its all inclusive and against discrimination ethos, the café prides itself in offering a welcoming environment for residents and visitors. It uses local produce when it can and is also a supporter of Fairtrade products.

The Howff is on St Monans’ Station Road and is also looking for new volunteers to help run it from day to day. If you’re interested then please contact 01333 730901.