Beloved Croydon cafe can’t make ends meet after all Christmas bookings cancelled

A well-loved community arts space that formed in the aftermath of the London riots is struggling to make ends meet after all of its Christmas bookings cancelled last month amid fears of the Omicron variant.

Matthews Yard, a vegan cafe located next to West Croydon train station, suffered hundreds of no-show bookings after the government advised people last month to work from home where possible.

This resulted in the venue struggling to pay its rent and staff their wages in what should have been “the busiest month of the year.”

If this wasn’t enough of a financial blow, the team are desperate to replace their 10-year-old coffee machine as it tends to stop working when it wants to, which causes staff members to frustratingly be unable to make hot drinks for up to 10 minutes at a time.

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Matthews Yard co-founder, Saif Bonar, told MyLondon that buying a new coffee machine (£6,228) is a priority because staff will be able to make coffee far more quicker than their current machine does.

The team also had to close five times throughout December because of unfortunate power-cuts – with one lasting 24 hours.

Saif is managing to keep on top of rent and staff wages, but stressed the real push is for faster, more efficient service with new machinery and refurbishments.

Reflecting on financial setbacks from the pandemic, Saif said: “In 2020, we invested quite a bit, we bought a Christmas tree but then we had to close completely.

“This year [2021], we thought it’s not going to happen again so let’s invest a bit more and make it look nice – so we were all excited for it and spent more than we should have on decorations to make it look right.

“We had around seven to eight parties booked in and then one by one they all cancelled and it ended up being a lower than average month for us.”

He added: “It’s been one battle and one crowdfunder after another for the past 10 years.”

Just before the pandemic, the cafe had moved from Matthews Yard [same name as cafe] to its new location next to the train station.

However, it was unable to open in April 2020 and all of its planned events, which catered for theatre shows, art exhibitions and life drawings, were put on hold because of lockdown.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the cafe has managed to maintain “slow but steady growth throughout”, thanks to its customers.

After witnessing unrest in Croydon during the 2011 London riots, Saif wanted to create a positive space for the area which put the community first.

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“I thought I’m going to do something positive because out of a negative, there’s always a positive that can come,” he added.

Since April 2012, the cafe has grown into a thriving arts space which has supported local community groups and creatives.

Saif is hopeful the cafe will meet its Crowdfunder target of £6,851, which includes potential match-funding from the Greater London Authority – and it’s already on £5,694 with 10 days to go.

He added: ” It’s heartwarming to know 10 years on, we’re stuck and people are helping. Especially just after Christmas, it’s touching.”

You can find out more about the Crowdfunder here.

Do you have a story we should be covering? Get in touch with Ruby at [email protected]

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