Row brewing over well-being cafe’s bid to serve free coffee on Yarmouth seafront

Simon Risi and his not-for-profit company Top Banana are hosting weekly well-being sessions on Yarmo

Simon Risi and his not-for-profit company Top Banana are hosting weekly well-being sessions on Yarmouth prom, using coffee culture to bring people together. Photo: Simon Risi - Credit: Simon Risi

A lottery-funded well-being cafe is scouting for a new home and operating a trimmed-back service after it ran into problems with the council over coffee.

Simon Risi, has been awarded £10,000 to run the al-fresco venture in Great Yarmouth, aimed at bringing people together and encouraging them to be more active.

However, after a successful pilot project in the summer he was prevented from setting up on the beach at The Waterways by council officials citing a range of reasons to do with permissions and the impact on other cafes.

Mr Risi said he had made all the right approaches and only wanted to operate between 2pm and 4pm on Tuesdays in low season, and would continue to do so but with water and free fruit.

He understood the issue was mainly to do with his plan to serve free coffee and set out tables and chairs.

The 45-year-old has previously run a community bike project in the area.

'We did have people turn up and I know they were vulnerable and that depresses me. It is more than giving away a free coffee. We are hoping to train people to run the cafe and move them into jobs.

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'The worst case scenario is that I go somewhere where they actually want me. What is the point of a well-being cafe where I am not allowed to give them tables and chairs and hot drinks. With the winter coming up how is that responsible?'

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: 'Supporting communities is a council priority, and the council strives to accommodate community activities on its land, where appropriate.

'Depending on the nature of the proposal, it is sometimes necessary for the council to grant a licence specifying clear terms and conditions of what can happen, when and how.

'On the seafront, an important business location and high footfall area, two key considerations in determining the terms and conditions are avoiding impact on private businesses, and the timings of any proposed vehicular movements.

'In this case, while the activity organiser had contacted the council with initial proposals, which included offering free food and drink from a mobile unit, the council has not granted the necessary licence to enable this activity. In addition, concerns have been raised by local businesses.

'The council is keen to find a solution that works for everyone and has asked him politely to postpone his activity until a conversation can take place around his aspirations. We would like to thank the organiser for his co-operation and hope this can be resolved as soon as possible.'

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