Worksop cafe owners claim council has forced them out of the high street

Cafe Neo, which has been forced to close.
Cafe Neo, which has been forced to close.

The owners of a popular Worksop cafe say they have been forced to close because Bassetlaw District Council is in negotiations to buy their building.

Café Neo, in Bridge Court, closed at the weekend after landlords decided not to renew its lease.

Owner Leano Kaponus told your Guardian that when she questioned it with the landlord, he said he was planning on selling the building, and the potential new owners wanted vacant possession.

He said: “We were on holiday at the time. We rang up and asked why, and the owners of the building said ‘we’ve sold the building and the new owners want a vacant position’

“When I asked who the new buyers of the building are, they said ‘the council’.

“So we’re being evicted by the council, whether they admit it or not.”

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The cafe has been running for 13 years, and is part of the Kaponus family business, which also includes Cypriana.

Mr Kaponus said he now intends to relaunch Café Neo elsewhere in the town.

The 45-year-old said: “We’re looking to move elsewhere.

“We’ve got such a loyal customer base, you just need to see the facebook post we put up.

“We’re looking for another unit.

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“Cypriana, our sister café is still running, so we’re trying to keep as many of the staff as we can up there so they don’t lose their jobs. It’s a nightmare for everybody involved. Everyone’s in shock. Everybody is saying ‘it shouldn’t be happening, you should have been given more time’.”

Coun Simon Greaves, Leader of Bassetlaw District Council, said: “I can confirm that the Council is interested in purchasing Bridge Court and negotiations are progressing. However, I would like to categorically state that we are not forcing this popular town centre café out of the building and have certainly not insisted on vacant possession.

“We understand that Café Neo were offered a long-term lease by the owners of the building Kilworth Capital in August 2018, but only chose to extend this by just 12 months, taking their current lease up to August 2019, which has just expired.

“Let me make this clear, Bassetlaw District Council does not own the building and any negotiations regarding Café Neo’s lease and the location of their business is strictly between themselves and the owners of the building - not the Council. As far as I’m concerned, Café Neo and Kilworth Capital should have sorted out a new lease long before now.

“We understand that Café Neo have expressed a wish to continue to trade in the town. The Council is fully supportive of all businesses located in the Town Centre and we are able to provide dedicated business support and advice through our Economic Development Team.”

Posting on its facebook page on its last day of trading, the café wrote: “Can’t thank you enough for all your amazing support, we’ve had some of you in tears which in turn has left us in tears.”