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Couple accept defeat in fight to save Lake District cafe

A popular Keswick cafe which has been a part of the town’s social life for the last 85 years is facing closure and demolition.

Tea gardens cafe photo
The Goodwill family, from left, Dina, Jay, Stephen and daughter Dina

The couple who have run the famous Lakeside Tea Gardens for the last 25 years say they have finally accepted defeat in the face of expansion plans by their landlord, the neighbouring Theatre by the Lake.

Allerdale council gifted the land on which the cafe stands to the charitable trust that runs the theatre.

Stephen Goodwill, 50, and his wife Dina, 45, have been told their lease for the cafe will not be renewed when it comes to an end on October 31.

The Cumbria Theatre Trust will then be free to press ahead with its plans to build a brand new cafe on the site which will remain open throughout the year and in the evenings.

Mr Goodwill said he has spent thousands battling to save his business, which also employs the couple’s son Jay, 18, and their daughter, also called Dina, 21.

Stephen said: “We’ve been on this site for 25 years and it’s been a great place to work and fantastic business.

“I’ve loved coming to work here: I’ve done it seven days a week – always first in and last out of the place.

“But the last couple of months have been incredibly stressful, and the atmosphere has become demoralising. Staff have left because of the uncertainty over jobs. There has been a tea gardens here since 1928, and we are only the third family to have run this place.

“Hundreds of people have told us they’re disgusted that this is happening. There are elderly customers who came here when they were children.

“This cafe is part of Keswick’s heritage.”

Mr Goodwill said he is particularly disappointed that no Allerdale councillors have spoken out to try to protect the cafe from closure.

He said: “We’re not against the theatre, but they already have a cafe and bar. The important decision was made five years ago when Allerdale gave the land to the Theatre by the Lake.”

If he can, said Mr Goodwill, he and his wife may try to acquire another cafe but he thought it unlikely that they will ever find one in such a special location.

“This is probably one of the most photographed places in the country,” he added.

Patrick Gilchrist, executive director of the Cumbria Theatre Trust, said the end of the Lakeside Tea Gardens would not mean there not being a cafe on the site.

He said: “The plan is to replace the existing poor quality buildings, which have been there for quite some time and are in a poor state of repair.

“We will replace them with a stand-alone cafe which will be open all year round, and during the evenings.”

Asked whether the Goodwills had been invited to stay on to run the new cafe, Mr Gilchrist said: “No, they haven’t.

“We are the landlord and their tenancy is coming to an end. We are simply exercising our right as landlord. In terms of employment, there will be more opportunities because we will be open for more hours and through the year.”

The new cafe will be run by Theatre by the Lake staff, with all proceeds going to the trust that owns it. A planning application for the project, which is likely to cost around £600,000, has yet to be submitted.

Have your say

I have to agree with the previous comment about not visiting the corporate theatre. Such narrow minded action all in the name of corporate profit.

Posted by David Lomax on 26 September 2014 at 19:59

Well, as a frequent customer of the cafe and the Theatre - I will no longer visit the Theatre. It's not very good anyways.

Posted by Jem on 5 August 2013 at 21:19

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