Café abandons St Aubin plans after struggling to find staff

THE owners of a town coffee shop have scrapped plans to expand into St Aubin – citing concerns about finding staff and objections from neighbours.

Ella Locke outside Locke’s in Pitt Street. Plans to open a branch in St Aubin have now been shelved
Ella Locke outside Locke’s in Pitt Street. Plans to open a branch in St Aubin have now been shelved

Locke’s, which operates out of the restored Foot Buildings in Pitt Street, had hoped to convert the former LoveJoys antique store into a café. Brigham Young, the owner of the St Brelade premises, had submitted a planning application for the potential change.

But Locke’s has announced on social media that, alongside planning-related issues, the current staffing crisis facing the Island’s hospitality industry has, for now, made the venture unviable.

Andrew Hosegood, owner of El Tico, revealed in August that he had been offered an opportunity to open a second outlet in town at a ‘landmark building’. However, he also said he had been forced to decline as he was not confident he would find enough staff. He announced last week that he would be having to close on Mondays and Tuesdays after university students he was employing resumed their studies.

Architects acting on behalf of Locke’s had said their plans would ‘breathe new life’ into an unloved building which had been empty for some time, to the benefit of the local area.

However, ten public comments were lodged, with many of those objecting to the plans.

One from Peter Edwards said that there were already many hospitality outlets in the area, which was also ‘woefully under-served by available parking’.

Gillian Jones raised concerns over the proposed installation of a kitchen extractor fan and noted that potential cooking smells and the noise generated by it were ‘a big worry’.

Rob Bowditch, from the government’s Environmental Health team, said that although he had concerns about the planned installation of the fan, he would not be lodging a formal objection.

Ella Locke, who co-owns Locke’s alongside her husband, Drew, said the hospitality staffing crisis had reached a ‘critical’ point.

‘The last post we put out for head chefs we had three applicants and none of them were suitable. We also put an advert up the other day for front-of-house and we have not had one response. I just think, where do we go from here?’

Mrs Locke also highlighted the difficulty in obtaining work licences for employees who do not have five years’ residency and expensive rent costs for potential workers.

She said: ‘The hospitality industry heavily bolsters Jersey’s tourism industry and together they play a pivotal role in generating revenue for the Island and, in addition, significant employment opportunities. So what are government going to do to help businesses continue to drive revenue toward the Island?’

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