Seven Cellars and Latina are part of the fabric of our world. They’re part of what makes the Dials the Dials. Now they’re under threat by the Co-op – maybe that’s what their motto “It’s what we do” really means. Louise Oliver of Seven Cellars explains what it means to her
Seven Cellars is to me more than a shop. It represents a life-long dream to own my own business in Brighton. It represents four years studying Wine Business at Plumpton College. It is linked to friends and family, some whom are no longer with us, who helped me in so many ways to get it open, writing labels at one in the morning – hurriedly getting an inadequate amount of change for our first days trade, poring over wine lists (and so many samples) to agonise which wines we should open with. It was enormous fun. And we were welcomed so heartily by the amazing people of Seven Dials I just knew it was going to be special. And it is.
All these things apply in different ways to Adelia at Latina café too. We were stunned to receive a call from our landlord, Bob (Patel – not his real name, his business name) to tell us he had sold our protected leases (I still don’t know how that can happen) to the Co-op for £1.5 million, thus making the Co-op our landlords.
The Co-op sent us both a letter which simply told us to change the bank details for rent payment with Immediate effect. It was a bit rude to be honest because there was no attempt to introduce themselves, no niceties whatsoever.
They sent inspectors to “review” the properties – along with structural engineers and architects. They used a third party to tell us that they will be seeking to remove us from our properties. Under a protected lease there are only two reasons you can do that: non payment of rent or redevelopment. The redevelopment will happen. They will increase the size of the second co-op and force us to move out.
I did write to our MP but she said there was little we could do unless we can get an effective campaign to get them to back off. The expansion into our little shops is inevitable because it’s completely legal.
I wonder if it will cause consternation if we use their twitter hashtag #itswhatwedo to ask them if what they really do is put two well-loved family-owned shops out of business? I can confirm that whatever happens we will try to stay in the Dials and relocate as soon as we can if new premises can be found. We have three years yet so we are not going anywhere soon. The wheels of corporate business turn very slowly indeed.
Thank you so much for the support. So many of you are asking what you can do to help. We have been overwhelmed by the sentiment and people coming in to offer words of encouragement. Some people have sent letters to the MP and the council, some have offered to design posters. Some have offered their company on a lock in protest!
We’ve put a lot of planning and energy into Seven Cellars and Latina Café and now it feels as though all our plans are on hold and we have to live with constant uncertainty. We don’t take it personally but whether the co-op group intentionally or unintentionally are failing to give us clarity on what the next steps are the result it exactly the same and we are left worrying night after night about what the future holds.
The irony is that Seven Cellars and Latina Café have been and still are successful and popular shops and yet they face an existential threat. On a final point and putting our own issues to one side the Seven Cellars and Latina Café premises go back to 1841. And I often wonder how many families have spent their lives trading from there and serving the community. It seems a bit brutal and unnecessary to bring it all to an end. When the Co-op already have a bigger shop just a few hundred meters away.
We are not powerless. We have a voice. There’s a petition at change.org.
Write, shout, put it on your social media platform. Don’t be passive, be active. You have a voice. Use it.