The demise of another victim of the COVID19 pandemic occurred last week, with the sudden closure of Café Nero coffee shop in West Street, Havant.
The Café Nero chain has been trying to refinance their business and unfortunately, this town’s branch was one of the casualties in this restructuring.
I think it’s very sad, especially as it was more than a coffee shop for many. It was an office, a meeting place, a venue where a published author could be seen writing her books, and of course, a political meeting place for some of our ward councillors too.
It served the community as an inclusive gathering place to meet for young and old alike, serving quality coffee and take out food for students and workers on the move, as well as residents. It was child and dog friendly, and had excellent customer focused staff. You could listen to Bach, pop or jazz through the piped music when playing, which reflected the range of ages and people frequenting this social hub.
It certainly gave residents a sense of identity and place where Havant was concerned, and they had some pride in having a Café Nero in their town.
I am especially sorry to see it go, because I was one of the original group of people to show Cafe Nero staff around Havant and get them interested in that particular retail unit. It’s an excellent location opposite St. Faiths Church and I hope a similar type of commercial business may be able to operate there in the post pandemic future.
Losing shops, cafés, banks or libraries is like losing the public realm of a town, they are our cafés, our banks, our shops, and we feel a loss.
If this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that community is vital to our social, physical and mental health. We must envisage a better town centre with a new mix of commercial and public enterprises, well-maintained public realm and green spaces, and safe places to gather.
It is in our hands to achieve this goal, if we collectively push for a sustainable vision of the Havant town centre that we all wish to see in the future.
P.S. For a little rather more cheerful news, we’re pleased to see scaffolding enveloping the former Streets building in East Street, and work on refurbishing the roof making good progress.