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Stricken cafe owed £380,000 but boss insists government is to blame for closure

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 30 August 2019

Davina Tanner OBE, owner of Café Britannia, said she would not be closing the business if it weren't for the MoJ notice. Picture: Matt Keal / mattkealphotography

Davina Tanner OBE, owner of Café Britannia, said she would not be closing the business if it weren't for the MoJ notice. Picture: Matt Keal / mattkealphotography

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The true extent of the financial strife facing the much-loved Britannia Cafe can now be revealed as distraught customers battle to save it.

Britannia Cafe in Britannia Road will close this week. Picture: ArchantBritannia Cafe in Britannia Road will close this week. Picture: Archant

Bosses at the stricken cafe, which will close today, claim the Ministry of Justice - who own the building - have ordered them out.

But the most recent accounts from 2017 shows the company did owe creditors £384,000.

The accounts also show almost £70,000 was paid out for "the provision of services by the chief executive".

MORE: Cafes to close with 50 staff set to lose jobs

Cafe Britannia will close on tomorrow. Picture: ArchantCafe Britannia will close on tomorrow. Picture: Archant


Davina Tanner OBE, who runs the business, strongly denied being paid that much even though she personally signed off all the accounts.

Ms Tanner said: "That earning is accrued - I haven't taken a salary out of the business for two years.

"It's a community-focussed business. The objective was never to make loads of money. We had another investor lined up to come into the business but I couldn't take that money when I knew we had to leave the site. It wouldn't have been right."

The accounts also show £91,640 was owed in tax and social security.

Proving popular - Cafe Britannia in the former prison officers mess, that is offering valuable work experience for inmates from Norwich Prison. Photo: Steve AdamsProving popular - Cafe Britannia in the former prison officers mess, that is offering valuable work experience for inmates from Norwich Prison. Photo: Steve Adams

"When you're in a commercial position you have to take risks and anyone who works with a CIC will know that risk. Of course it is my every intention to pay our suppliers back," Ms Tanner added.

She also claims that more than £100,000 of the debt is owed to her personally after she sank her own cash into the venture.

"I'm the biggest loser here," she said. "I stupidly invested my own money into this and I've had to make my peace with the fact I'm not getting it back."

When news of the cafe's closure broke many customers rounded on the MoJ demanding the social enterprise - which helps convicts both serving time in prison and after their release by providing them with work rehabilitation - was handed a reprieve.

Cafe Britannia in the former prison officers mess, that offered work experience for inmates from Norwich Prison. Photo: Steve AdamsCafe Britannia in the former prison officers mess, that offered work experience for inmates from Norwich Prison. Photo: Steve Adams

Declan Moore, governor of HMP Norwich, said: "I'm as disappointed as anyone that Café Britannia is having to close, I know how popular it has been in recent years.

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"Unfortunately the building requires significant investment and, as the Prison Service receives no money from the café, it would leave taxpayers having to pick up the considerable bill - which we simply cannot justify.

"Prisoners at HMP Norwich will continue working at Britannia Enterprises' other establishments in Norwich."

A number of staff at the café will be transferred to the Park Britannia, which was also scheduled to close this week but has been saved after a deal was struck with Norwich City Council who own the building.

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