Words by Liam Smith / Pics by Ed King
St Barnabas Church are set to close their Harbour Café to members of the public from 10 June, refocusing their energies into operating the space as a community hub for local groups.
There will also be extra Welcome Space sessions hosted, where members of the public can meet and socialise in the café space with free snacks and refreshments (Tues & Thurs, 10:30am – 12:30pm and Fri, 2 – 5pm).
But following a consultation by the Parochial Church Council (PCC), the church’s governing body, it was concluded the ‘increasingly large amounts’ being lost each week ‘was not sustainable’ and the only option was to close the café to the paying public.
Several members of staff would also be made redundant through the closure, with some having worked in the café for nearly 10 years.
Reverend Emma Sykes told Erdington Local: “Ever since Covid, like everyone else, we’ve been having to look carefully at our finances. We hoped when we reopened, we would be able to increase footfall to a level similar to pre-Covid times.
“When we were looking at the budget for this year, we knew we needed to review the café and barring a dramatic change it wasn’t something that could remain financially viable. We struggled to find ways to increase footfall; it wasn’t the fault of anyone, it’s just unfortunate that this is the situation we find ourselves in financially.
“We do have investment money coming in from the church, but a lot of what we rely on from the church and parishioners giving has to stretch across multiple avenues.”
Promoting itself as ‘a beacon of hope on the High Street’, St Barnabas and it’s public accessible Harbour Café has been a loved meeting place for many local residents – alongside offering a good café menu in a safe space overlooking Erdington’s shopping district.
But with high ceiling and a large glass frontage, the running costs – such as heating the space and operating a commercial kitchen – can soon mount up, especially during the recent spikes in energy prices.
One Church Road resident explained: “I love the Harbour Café, and the food there – especially the breakfasts – is some of the best on the High Street. But I appreciate there are rolling costs in running a cafe.
“I’ve worked in commercial catering, and I feel there might have been more done to promote the café before deciding to close it – some more signage, marketing, or extending the oening hours which were always a little limiting.
“Closing it must have been a tough decision, but was it really the only option? Especially as people will lose their jobs too – after all, money is tight for everyone, not just businesses or churches.”
Carolyn, one of the staff members who will lose her job because of the closure, told: “I feel dreadful for our customers with the café closing. These are loyal customers who come here week after week, day after day.
“There is nowhere else this nice for them to go in Erdington or along the high street… none as safe as here.
“In all honesty, I don’t think they tried hard enough to keep this place going.”
For more on St Barnabas visit www.stbarnabaserdington.org.uk