Community cafe to shut up shop

Harbour Howff
Harbour Howff

A LONG-RUNNING community cafe in St Monans will serve its last cuppa next month unless there there is an eleventh hour bid to save it.

The Harbour Howff has been a hub of community activity in the East Neuk village for five years but has always struggled to keep its head above water financially, with volunteers and placements from Elmwood College and Community Payback currently supporting the one part-time member of staff.

Ironically, 2011-12 had been the cafe’s most successful trading year, ending with a small surplus for the first time, but after an exceptionally poor summer, the period which previously would provide enough income to subsidise the winter months, organisers have had to face the fact there is not enough in the coffers to make it through another year.

The only glimmer of hope would be if more volunteers, willing to commit to regular days, came forward.

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

The cafe helps with this, providing volunteering and training opportunities.

It opened when the community, determined to keep some kind of facility in the village, rallied round after the demise of a previous operation. A steering group was formed to work with ENeRGI and the Howff opened as a social enterprise.

However, Elaine Fox, a project manager for ENeRGI, confirmed that to the Mail that, without many more volunteers stepping forward, the cafe would close its doors for the last time on October 28.

“It’s not been a great summer and takings are down from last year, whether from the bad weather or other factors such as a new place opening in St Monans offering similar things,” Elaine said.

“We just can’t afford to run it any more.”

Currently, there are only four volunteers helping out.

“The volunteers we have are great but we would really need about 20 people willing to commit to regular times and days each week to make it viable,” said Elaine.

A sign will be going in the cafe window to let customers know about the forthcoming closure.

“Everyone feels very sad about it and it’s not an occasion for celebrating, so there is nothing planned to mark the last day,” Elaine added.