Tuesday, 23 June 2020 05:40

Devizes traders hope to bring cafe culture to town as businesses bounce back Featured

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BORIS Johnson’s decision to allow cafes and pubs to re-open on July 4 has come as perfect timing for plans to create a new cafe culture in Devizes Market Place.

Town clerk Simon Fisher and market manager Mark Hill are determined to make the most of the space when a long-awaited deal with Wiltshire Council is finally signed.

But even without the plan for the Market Place to become a combined parking and community space they are pushing ahead to the delight of cafe owners Kim Feltham-Morley, Alice O’Brien and Emma Soellner who run Times Square.

Kim said: “It has been very tough for us during lockdown. We managed to get a government grant which just about saw us through three months and we have been open for takeaways but we have no outside space.

“We think it would be great if the town council allows us to use space close to our cafe for our customers to sit.”

Alice said: “You see it happening all over Europe and it would be great if we are able to do it here.

"Our inside space is limited and makes distancing difficult.

Mr Fisher said: “It makes sense for us to help our traders to be able to open and use this space.

"We have been talking about how we can get the community to use the Market Place in different ways and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

Mr Hill said: “To work out exactly where tables and chairs will go and how we arrange the market on a Thursday and traffic flow isn’t easy but we think we can make it work.”

Mr Fisher said a pilot study where tables and chairs are set up at the end of the Market Place near Greggs and used by anyone who wants to sit and chat or eat takeaway may be trialled first.

But he said he was open to the idea put forward by Times Square where individual businesses would have their own allocated seating separated by banners.

He was also open to the idea of Times Square taking over a space near the fountain.

He said: “It is very early days and we have to make sure that cars will still be able to safely navigate the Market Place.”

Mr Fisher asked other cafes interested in the scheme to get in touch.

Kim said: “We are pleased that the council is keen to back local independent traders. It is difficult for us to compete against the likes of Greggs and Costa who are nearby.”

Last week traders launched Indie Devizes to persuade customers to shop locally in a bid to give traders a boost.

Scores of shopkeepers signed up including Chris Peyser from Urban Rustics said: “After 20 years in business the coronavirus pandemic has been the most challenging set of circumstances we’ve ever had to adapt to. But it’s been great to see people’s response to us opening again.”

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