Trojka, known as the Russian tea rooms, closed down a fortnight ago after owner Sophia Szymankiewicz was faced with paying a 70 per cent increase in the cost of a new lease. The Regent’s Park Road café had become a local institution since Ms Szymankiewicz founded it in 1992, but she says the street has now changed and established businesses are being driven out by a new wave of expensive cafés.
“Camden High Street is now all coffee and food places and Regent’s Park Road is going that way too,” she said.Places change. That’s not news. Areas that were once little hotspots for books, or records, or fashion, change. Other shops move in.
The new owners don’t even plan to change the business all that much – it’ll still be a café:
The lease is being taken over by Morfudd Richards who has renamed it the Greenberry Café and plans to sell coffees, charcuterie and ice-cream.
But other businesses say there are too many cafés and warned that the area’s diversity is being eroded.If there really were ‘too many cafes’, then there’d be no point in people opening them – there is such a thing as ‘market saturation’.
And hey, it's not like they are that dreaded modern scourge, Costa Coffee!
Peter Haxton, who opened the Sesame health food in 1983, is closing next month after he realised he was facing a tripling of his rent. He said: “I’ve had a very kind landlord who has kept my rent below market value for years but he can’t keep doing that and I can’t afford to pay that much more. When I first opened up there was huge diversity on this street — lots of different quirky shops and only one café. That’s all changed now and it’s a terrible shame.
This road is no longer serving the needs of local residents; it’s all about expensive cafés for the people who come in at weekends — but will they still come when there’s nothing but cafés to look at?”I find it very hard to believe that a shop can take in enough revenue on two days of the week to offset the other five making a loss. Can that really be the case?
Amit Jain, who runs the long-established Shepherd’s café, estimates that one in three businesses on the street is now selling food and drink.
He said: “I don’t think people realise that soon Primrose village will be café village.
“The yummy mummies just want somewhere to settle their prams and have a mummies’ meeting, so anywhere with coffee and a table is in demand.”Well….you seem to have just such a place, so why are you complaining?
But new café owners hit back at the criticism. Natalie Allen has been running her cake company, Sweet Things, for seven years and opened her offshoot shop and café in Regent’s Park Road 10 months ago.
She said: “Everyone is being very negative but people wouldn't open a café if they didn't think the demand was there. We have just taken on more employees, so we are contributing to the local economy. And I hate this phrase ‘yummy mummy’ — I'm a mum of two but I'm running a business too.”In business, as in life, there are winners and losers. What we are hearing here is the whining of the (imminent) losers.