Independent businesses at a shopping hub say they are shocked after being told they have one month to pack their things and leave.
Traders at the Castle Emporium in Cardiff have received a letter giving notice of licence termination and premises closure of 17-21 Castle Street.
The hub is a collection of independent and one-off eclectic shops in the city centre.
In August, planning permission was granted by Cardiff Council for the building to have a change of use from shops to food and drink.
Although planning rules have been followed, and there is no suggestion the terms of the lease have been broken, shop owners say the news still came as a massive blow. They said they had fought so hard to stay afloat throughout the coronavirus pandemic and now have to find a new before the Christmas shopping period begins.
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One business that has been affected is Heads Above The Waves, a non-profit mental health organisation.
Director and co-founder Hannah Morgan said she was “absolutely gutted” upon hearing the news.
“We’d heard rumours that the lease was going to maybe change hands at the end of January so we’ve had some discussions about potentially moving, but just to have 30 days, it just really took the air out of me and I just spent most of yesterday in shock really,” she added.
“It was just such an out of the blue letter to get, and the feeling amongst everyone in here about being so upset about this is really palpable. We’re all in the same boat and just really shocked.”
Heads Above The Waves is a charitable organisation that sells merchandise featuring a positive message from its shop in Castle Emporium. However, Hannah added the shop also provides a safe space for young people.
“We’ve been inundated today by people coming in and telling us about a time that they’ve been in when they’ve been at rock bottom or a low point and just sat and had us listen to them and given them a space to vent and talk through what they were going through, send them to helplines and places of support, and suggested coping techniques they might want to try,” she said.
“For us, it’s not just a financial loss and the stress of having to find somewhere new quickly now in the lead up to Christmas, and also the financial cost of having to set up a new shop and the move itself – it’s also a real blow to our community, specifically Heads Above The Waves’s audience, because the shop is so important to so many young people in Cardiff and further afield who come to have that place where they feel that they’re not alone.”
The business, which started online in 2012, has been housed in the Castle Emporium for around four-and-a-half years.
Hannah continued: “This is an incredible hub of independents who have all been working here on our own little projects but under our Emporium Umbrella for so long now that it’s going to be a real loss to culture in the city centre.
“It’s just nice to know that we have been appreciated in the city and that people are as sad as we are to see us go. It just reminds me that the community spirit that we foster in here ripples out into the people of Cardiff, and hopefully we can continue that even if it’s not under this roof, as it were.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the people who have come in and said really moving things about how much the shop has helped them and it’s really hammered home to me how much more than a shop space this is and that the whole Emporium is a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community and for anyone going through a hard time.
“I know everybody in here works really hard to make people feel good and leave with a smile on their face bigger than when they came in. We’re all just really devastated.”
Among those also expressing their devastation was hairdressers The Barber Room.
A spokesman said: “We have been issued a notice to leave our shops, we have until October 29 to leave. There are currently eight businesses under one roof.”
In a post on Instagram, they wrote: “After seven years of housing local businesses inside the Castle Emporium our building is being forced to close.
“We’ve been given 30 days notice to leave. We are now forced with having to find an alternative space whilst under the pressure of leading up to our busiest time of year, Christmas. I am not going to let all our hard work stop on October 28”
Another business, Tropigaz, which sells plants from the premises, also announced the notice on Instagram, saying: “This is a sudden and devastating blow to the business after all the struggles of this past year.”
The independent businesses say that they are now faced with having to find an alternative space leading up to Christmas, their busiest period.
The letter was sent by the director of real estate company Delta Infinite Limited.
Tetra Tech Planning submitted a planning application to Cardiff Council in May on behalf of Park Estates (Cardiff) Limited.
A spokesperson from Tetra Tech Planning told WalesOnline that the property will become licensed premises, and is in the process of being let to a local independent brewer.
The Castle Emporium, accessed via Womanby Street, has housed independent businesses since 2015, and is set in the old Castle Picture Theatre which which closed in 1921.
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