Popular café run by Sussex Autistic Trust closes its doors

L-R Michael Blick (deputy manager), Amanda Lucas (caf� assistant) and Alun Sambrook (volunteer).
L-R Michael Blick (deputy manager), Amanda Lucas (caf� assistant) and Alun Sambrook (volunteer).

Café des Arts closed this week, much to the sadness of its customers and employees, writes Alastair Choy.

The café was a social enterprise run by the Sussex Autistic Trust. It employed people who were on the autistic spectrum or had other learning disabilities.

Asked about the reasons behind the closure, manager Dave Koller said: “We weren’t making enough money.

“The café is too big for us to afford running costs.

“The project could work somewhere else, it just needs a lower bottom line.

“We were unfortunate with Brexit as the price of fruit and veg increased. This coupled with the fact that minimum wage increased meant that the monthly bill was just too big.

“Perhaps the integrity of the café was in some ways, its downfall. We always bought our milk from local dairy farms to support the area rather than buying the cheapest milk for business.”

It was not all negative, however. Dave added: “All the employees have other avenues that they can pursue.

“They have learnt skills that can help them in other jobs. Two of the employees are actually about to enrol on a graphic design course.”

A spokesman for the Sussex Autistic Trust said: “The café has been open for 10 years and now the lease has come to an end. We are at a point where there is too much competition. We cannot afford to keep it open.

“We have provided employability skills for the employees and hopefully they can be employed elsewhere. We have five other social enterprises that are run by the Roebuck Centre, which means there are other opportunities for the employees.”

The café will not only be missed by those who worked or volunteered there, but also by its customers.

Rose Legg, from Battle, said: “I have been going there for several years, it had a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and served good food and drinks. Thank you to the staff and service users of the Sussex Autistic Trust for providing a lovely café.”