Third time lucky – bid to create autism-friendly restaurant in Kirkcaldy

Members of the ASD Fife Community Hub who are planning on opening an autism friendly cafe in the former Pancake Place.
Members of the ASD Fife Community Hub who are planning on opening an autism friendly cafe in the former Pancake Place.

A group of parents of children on the autistic spectrum are hoping that it will be third time lucky in their attempt to open up an autism-friendly restaurant in Kirkcaldy.

The group, all trustees of the ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) Fife Community Hub, plans to open up a sensory eating place called Sensoriale, catering for diners with autism and other additional support needs, in the former Pancake Place in Kirk Wynd.

A previous attempt to open the former Cake Corner shop unit at the end of 2017 fell through, while a more recent venture to open a hub, incorporating a cafe, in the former Room 2 premises in the east end of the High Street had to be abandoned after a leaking roof caused water damage and problems with mould.

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The building has been closed since December and now, despite having to sort out complications on the lease of its previous building, the registered charity has decided to split the community hub venture in two, with the restaurant operating as a separate entity and being run on its own as a social enterprise company.

“It is the only way we can keep things going,” explained Elizabeth Wiscombe, one of the eight trustees involved in the charity.

“We are determined to make this work because we’ve all had bad experiences of eating out with our children and know that an autism-friendly one would make a huge difference to many people who can become quite isolated.”

The restaurant will have quiet areas and a sensory room with booth seating and no loud music or bright lighting. There will also be a flexible menu for those with special dietary requirements.

And it will offer employment and training to people on the spectrum, under the leadership of Michael Cummins, who runs the West Wemyss Bistro.

Pauline Gallagher, another of the trustees, said everyone in the group was working hard to make the plans a reality.

“We all have children on the spectrum and had met each other either through social media or other groups,” she said. “I met Elizabeth who told me about the hub plans. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to get involved. “I am helping out with the fundraising to get things up and running and we want to create a buzz and get more people involved.

“We all support and help each other, and this way we can help more people who are in the same boat as ourselves.”

The registered charity is also planning a number of fundraising events to try to raise an initial £3000 with a view to taking over the old Fife Free Press building in Kirk Wynd.

“The building would be ideal for what we would like to achieve in Kirkcaldy – a community hub with meeting rooms, therapy rooms for treatments like Reiki, sensory areas, a hairdressers because normal hairdressers can be traumatic for people on the autistic spectrum and much more,” added Elizabeth.

“Like the cafe we want it to be a place where parents can come along and get together for a chat about their problems or whatever in a place where they know they won’t be judged.”

The group says it hopes to have Sensoriale up and running some time in March.