Leith Walk Café, a haven for some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people, will be forced to serve its last cuppa on July 17 as the building which houses it is pencilled-in for demolition.
The owner of the traditional Edinburgh café has issued an emotional plea for developers, the Drum Property Group (DPG) to halt their closure plans, ahead of the eatery celebrating its 60th anniversary this weekend.
For the past six decades a café has been trading in the exact same spot on Leith Walk, however DPG has used a break clause in the current 10-year lease to kick out Charlotte Lloyd, who runs Leith Walk Café with her sister Lorraine.
Charlotte is inviting people to come to the café on Saturday to mark the 60th anniversary.
She said: “It is sad and so unjust. We asked Drum Property Group to let us stay but it was just thrown back in our faces.
“If I could speak to the boss of DPG, I would tell him that our café is more than just a business. A lot of the people who come here are quite old. Some have special needs. They are all welcome.”
The café is the latest victim of DPG’s attempt to demolish the existing block and build student flats as part of the redevelopment - seen by critics as gentrification - in Leith. Since announcing its plan just over a year ago, DPG has systematically evicted tenants at breakpoints in their leases.
The 40 independently-run shops and businesses that once occupied the Art Deco building, have been whittled down to just three: Leith Walk Café, Cassia café, and Leith Depot bar and music venue, which will be forced to shut in October.
A spokesman for the Save Leith Walk campaign, which is leading efforts to preserve the building, said: “DPG has an opportunity to show it cares about the people of Leith. We urge them to let all of the remaining businesses continue trading until the fate of Stead’s Place building has been decided, and let former tenants return...We’re asking DPG to stop robbing this community of vital shops and services.”
In January, DPG’s plans were thrown out by the City of Edinburgh Council however the developer has lodged an appeal and continued to clear the building of tenants. In addition, it has ignored a clear directive from the Council to work with the community on a shared vision for the site.
Charlotte said: “We’re becoming emotional seeing our regulars because you worry about where they are going to go.
““One wee lady walks up three or four times a week. Where is she going to go if we have to close? In any other café no one will know her.
“There are people who know each other just from coming in here. For some of them it might be the only human contact they have all day. So, this really is more than a business. Our customers have become like family.”
DPG was contacted for comment on to the eviction notice handed to the Leith Walk Café, but had not responded at the time of going to print.