A petition calling for the Karibuni cafe to be saved will be presented to the board of COPE on Friday.
The petition to save the town centre cafe, which was run by social enterprise firm COPE and which closed last week, was delivered this week to the chariman of COPE Jimmy Smith.
It was organised by Lerwick community council member Damien Ristori, a former COPE employee of seven years’ standing, and was started shortly before Karibuni closed. The quickly-organised petition, which yesterday had 313 signatures, asks COPE to keep the cafe open.
Mr Ristori is dismayed that Karibuni, which had been open for 10 years and served around 100 people a day, had to close so soon. He is now hoping that a “private person” could take the cafe on, as COPE still owns the building. He also queried why it appeared that nobody involved in Living Lerwick, which is aiming to improve the town centre, could help.
Mr Smith said it was a “very impressive petition” to have been assembled in such a short time. He said the closure of Karibuni had been “fully discussed” between management and staff and a closing date agreed. The cafe was a “loss leader” for COPE, he said, and as an “unprofitable enterprise” was earmarked for closure. It could have stayed open until the end of the month but the decision had been made to close early, on 5th April, to avoid uncertainty for staff.
Mr Smith said discussions about the future of the building were ongoing.
He said: “We have had approaches for the use of the building from more than one person.”
General manager of COPE Ingrid Webb said that she had had no idea the petition was being organised. However she said she valued the support the enterprise was getting from the community, and said COPE was “working hard” with SIC to make sure “the changes go through as smoothly as possible.”
Ms Webb reiterated that Karibuni’s closure date had been decided after discussion with staff and participants: “We worked really closely with staff and people being supported by Karibuni to mutually agree a closure date.”
This had been brought forward in their “best interests”, she said, as the continual questioning from customers was becoming upsetting. Closure was done with “absolute agreement” of all concerned and all four participants had been found alternative work within COPE.
Ms Webb dismissed the possibility of Living Lerwick – of which she is a board member – being involved. She said that Living Lerwick gets a levy from businesses within the Business Improvement District in the town centre to improve the area by putting on events or making parking easier, but: “doesn’t have funds to assist ailing businesses to continue.”