Are there too many coffee shops in St Albans district?
With yet another coffee shop chain expected to open in St Albans city centre, a campaign has been launched to persuade the district council that enough is enough.
Spearheaded by Marion Hammant of St Albans Civic Society, the campaign was sparked by an application for change of use of the former Monsoon clothing store in Market Place into a Caffe Nero.
Marion believes that St Albans is saturated with multi-national coffee shops to the detriment of independent cafés and retailers and has been lobbying for support among local residents.
She is backed by the Civic Society and has put leaflets around the independent stores and coffee shops in the city urging people to make their feelings clear to the council.
The campaign is supported by independents such as Barrissimo in St Peter’s Street where owner Angelo Padormo, said that “without a doubt” small local coffee shops and restaurants were being affected by the influx of multinational coffee companies.
He went on: “The biggest impact was when Pret and Costa plonked themselves in the middle of the town which has had a huge effect on small businesses around the peripherals.
“We are very popular and we have a strong customer base which we have built up over the last 12 years or so but it is no less of a problem. Their products might not be wonderful but they are there and very convenient.”
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Angelo added: “I know that we can’t stop competition but it is getting ridiculous with these big coffee chains.
“Eventually the independents will disappear and all town centres will become the same.
“We have to try and be better than the chains and we are having to work twice as hard to keep interest and customers coming in but hopefully we will.”
Marion said the big coffee chains appeared to “move quietly” into the town centre without many people being aware of the influx.
She went on: “People fall out of their cars and buses in the town centre and those are where they go instead of our own lovely local ones like Barrissimo and Café Roma and other independents in the town.”
She went on: “This is the final straw because this is a change of use. St Albans used to be a good place for shopping in and we also had independent retailers but they can’t keep up with the business rates which is no problem to a chain like Caffe Nero.”
Marion said she had received “a wonderful response” from the public and had spent the past 10 days putting leaflets in local cafés urging people who believe there are enough coffee chains already to write or email the head of planning and the chief executive of St Albans council objecting to the change of use.
The Caffe Nero planning application has been called in to committee by Cllr Michael Green and although it was originally expected to be heard this month it now looks likely to be April. Have your say and write to our letters pages at firstname.lastname@example.org