Blitz spirit: Kettering cafe WON'T be closed despite fears

The leaseholders had believed that the cafe would be moved

Monday, 1st February 2021, 4:21 pm

The leaseholders of a Kettering Second World War-themed tea room have been reassured today (Monday) that they can stay in the premises next to the town's museum.

Thousands of Blitz Tea Rooms and Jazz Cafe supporters had taken to social media to show their support for the tea rooms which, its owners believed, were to fall victim to plans by building owners Kettering Council who want it to become a new entrance for the museum.

Planning permission for the refurbishment, re-development and extension of the Alfred East Art Gallery, Kettering Library and Manor House Museum had been approved last week, leading to an online petition being set up in its support.

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l-r Chef Reza Horri and leasholder Patrick McDonald and manager Jarmen Avedisian

Known as GLam (The Gallery, Library and Museum), the £3m project, approved by Kettering Council's planning committee, will see an extension to the gallery and library buildings as well as a potential planned revamp of the coach house home of the Blitz café.

But the council says this is just part of their wider ambition as they don't have enough funding to extend the museum - meaning the Blitz will not be closing.

A spokesman for Kettering Council said: "The cultural-led regeneration project in question has secured planning approval, however, it is important to note that the plans approved represent a wider strategic ambition.

"The building works to be completed, and which are committed to, do not include the redevelopment of the Blitz café building, as we currently do not have any identified funding to bring the extension of the museum into scope.

The Blitz Cafe, Kettering

"Therefore, whilst the council secured planning approval for all the works within the GLaM project, as is only proper when dealing with a cluster of listed buildings in a conservation area, the works will not affect their tenancy.

"As such, the council is not asking the Blitz tea room to close and there will no change to its lease."

The spokesman added that they were in regular contact with the leaseholders and said: "There will be a café in the new extension to the library and gallery. The owners of the Blitz are free to express an interest in the management of that café, should they wish, but there is no threat to their existing tea rooms."

More than 1,300 supporters had signed the 'Save The Blitz Tea Room' online petition describing it as 'wonderful' and ' unique'.

Chef Reza Horri and manager Jarmen Avedisian celebrate

Retired businessman Patrick McDonald had bought the ten-year lease on the building for his partner Jarmen Avedisian who co-manages the cafe with her sister Jasmen.

The couple have seven years left on the lease and intend to carry on providing their war-themed teas and jazz nights.

He said: "The Blitz spirit has prevailed. We have been overwhelmed by the support for the cafe on social media. We have been told that the cafe is the only reason for them to come into Kettering."

Jarmen said: "Life has been hell for me in the last few days. The council is the government and then there's little me. I now know that it's going to be OK.

The plans showing the revamped entrance to the museum using the Blitz Tea Rooms building

"I love it here and the customers are so wonderful. It is more than a business it is a community. People come and chat, children come to learn about history, we have care homes who come and bring their clients. I'm very relieved to know that the cafe is safe."

The planning documents refer to the Manor House Museum saying: "The substantive element of the proposal to the Grade II Listed Manor House Museum relates to the area between the ‘Blitz Tea Room’ and the Manor House involving change of use of the ‘Tea Room’ to an entrance area associated with the Museum.

"This area will be incorporated within the Museum through the provision of a glass link which will be located under an existing canopy and be extended to the north to fill a walkway and small courtyard.

Following the concerns of Historic England to an earlier version the extension had been 'drastically' reduced.

The GLaM project secured £3million funding from the Getting Building Fund, which is being administered by SEMLEP, with match funding from Kettering Council and Northamptonshire County Council.

Part of the extended gallery and library building will expand the British Library led Business & IP Centre Northamptonshire, that provides entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) free access to a wide range of support.

The Blitz Cafe is in Kettering's Cultural Quarter

Kirsty Jordan, a daily visitor to the cafe pre-lockdown, said: "I come here every day. They make me feel so welcome and have great food and drink. They look after me. It is so friendly."

For further information on the plans click here to visit the Kettering Council planning portal.