Edinburgh cafes: Love, Peace and Coffee owner hits out after energy bills reach £1,000 per month
She is trying to save her flagship Edinburgh cafe after having been forced to close her other one
An Edinburgh cafe owner who has been hit with an energy bill which has quadrupled to more than £1,000 a month has branded the charges ‘criminal’.
Hana Saky-Gordon, the founder of Newington cafe Love, Peace and Coffee, said she was devastated when she got the latest energy bill which has shot up by more than four times her previous monthly average of £268 a month. She now owes total charges of more than £5,000 for the last few months’ energy supply and the Clerk Street cafe is being threatened with disconnection at a further cost of ‘thousands’.
She said the rocketing prices are a massive blow to the business, which struggled to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic, having opened in 2019.
The 31-year-old said: “We are a very small cafe. I don't have the heating on. I only use a coffee machine and a couple of fridges. We don’t serve hot meals, only reheated waffles and pancakes. I have been trying for months to cut costs by switching bulbs, getting a new toaster that saves energy and everything I could think of. But it has not made any difference.
“It’s just criminal to charge a small business these high rates. A bill for more than £1,000 for just one month is nearly double my rent. It’s a massive blow just as we’re getting back on feet after pandemic. It has been one thing after another. This is the last thing I need and it's causing so much stress. The energy prices have rocketed from 39p per unit to £1.15.”
After being hammered by hikes in her bills, Ms Saky-Gordon, who is seven months pregnant, said she was gutted to shut her other West Preston Street cafe, Love, Peace and Toasties, on Monday.
But she said Love, Peace and Coffee Ltd, her flagship cafe, has gone from strength to strength and she hopes it will pull through.
Ms Saky-Gordon said she first contacted Clear Business to stop her contract and switch to another supplier in October. But since then she claims the company has been ‘awful’ and has failed to help her make a payment agreement. After going to Citizens Advice Scotland for help, the company refused to work with the charity to help put together a plan, it’s claimed. Now she’s getting help from local MP Tommy Sheppard.
"Looking at other suppliers costs this seems to be unheard of,” she said. “When I talked to them last time the adviser threatened to cut off my supply and said this would be billed to me. They said it would be thousands. It’s scary that the bill is based on readings, it's not even an estimate. And it already includes the money off under the energy relief scheme.”
"I wrote to them in October telling them to stop my contract. But they said it wasn’t received. They have been just awful. I had to sell my other cafe after being hit hard by the cost of living crisis. I am so angry that small businesses are expected to take hit after hit. It’s as if the energy suppliers have licence to run small businesses into the ground.”
Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard said: “Small businesses are finding themselves in a desperate situation as the energy crisis tears through our city’s high streets. My inbox has been full of messages from small business owners warning they will struggle to stay open without meaningful government support. While my team and I continue to assist constituents where we can through casework, I fear this will only escalate unless urgent action is taken.
“The UK Government’s latest energy announcement will act as a mere sticking plaster; we need a robust and long-term plan from the Chancellor to protect small businesses – like Love, Peace, Coffee – from this deepening crisis”
A spokesperson for Clear Business said: "We understand the impact that the current energy cost crisis is having on all of our small business customers. We continue to support our customers and have put in place a number of initiatives, including moving to a fixed rate if they are out of contract.
“Although we cannot discuss the individual details of this customer’s case, I can confirm that we have been trying to contact the customer to find a resolution. We’d welcome an opportunity for the customer to speak with a specialist member of our Customer Services team to see how we can help further.”