‘Killer’ business rates force popular Leyland cafes out of town centre

Parents Amanda and Will Calwell outside Peekabrew when it first opened
Parents Amanda and Will Calwell outside Peekabrew when it first opened

Two Leyland cafe owners say they have been forced out of the town centre because of crippling business rates.

Coppers Tea Rooms, which opened in the Old Police Station in Golden Hill three years ago, closed its doors for good on Friday.

Peekabrew, which opened in the former Bean Drinking coffee shop in Hough Lane just 14 months ago, is having to relocate out of the town centre in a bid to achieve cheaper rates and continue trading.

Both family firms have blamed the ‘killer’ rates for their struggles, and members of the community have expressed their shock.

Pam Campbell, who ran Coppers with her daughter Jessica, told the Guardian: “It’s awful, it’s very sad.

“This was my dream and I thought I would be doing this until I retired.

“But there was just no light at the end of the tunnel for us.”

Coppers opened in July 2011 and in December 2012, the family transformed the old courtrooms upstairs into a function suite.

“That has actually been making more money than the tea rooms lately,” Pam explained. “That was keeping us afloat.

“But things have been quiet these last few weeks and the rates are so high, I knew we wouldn’t be able to catch up.

“We own the building so it wasn’t even like we were paying rent, it’s just the business rates which are so bad.

“South Ribble Council offered a one-off rate relief of £1,000 for small businesses earlier this year, but that was just a drop in the ocean for us.

“We’re getting a bill for £1,200 each month. It’s just not sustainable anymore.”

The family now plans to put the building on the market for rent.

Meanwhile, Peekabrew has closed its doors on Hough Lane, with owner Amanda Calwell hoping to get planning permission from the council to re-open in the Talbot Road Business Park.

She said: “Everything has been so up in the air, we still don’t know if we will be able to open in the business park, but we couldn’t afford to stay on Hough Lane any longer because of the business rates.

“I was really upset to hear about Coppers – now two town centre cafes are gone. It’s such a shame.”

The mum-of-two added: “My customers are really upset and I’ve found myself apologising, but I just couldn’t afford to stay.

“The rates are a complete killer, it doesn’t seem fair.

“I never got a wage myself from day one.

“Every single week we were putting more money into it, and we were having to pay £850 a month on business rates.

“Our choice was to either move on or close down completely, and we really didn’t want that.

“We’ve put so much into this, so this is our last chance - we’re hoping to move in to the new place by September, and we’re giving it until January to see if it works.”

Now, a discount shop selling clothing, bedding, toys and electrical goods is set to open at the Hough Lane space.

Business rates are collected by South Ribble Council, set by the Government.

Coun Phil Hamman, South Ribble Council’s cabinet member for shared services and corporate support, said: “Hearing about people losing their livelihoods and seeing shops close down is never nice.

“We’ve worked very hard to support businesses of all sizes in South Ribble, and have heard from lots of different shops, restaurants, cafés and drinking establishments who’ve been reaping the rewards of the business rates discounts that we introduced earlier this year.

“Bringing empty premises back into use and encouraging people to shop locally are among the main aims of adopting such measures, so I’m disappointed by the closure of Coppers.

“I think it’s difficult to say whether this was simply down to business rates or other issues like the proximity of so many competitors.”