You must know now that on Sunday 15th March we made the extremely difficult decision to close our doors to the public, making us one of the first cafes ☕ in Birmingham to react to what was emerging to be a public health crisis . At the time we believed the Government did not act fast enough. We decided to take the welfare of staff and customers into our own hands by setting an example in Birmingham of what all cafés could be doing to reduce the spread of Covid-19. The flipside of this was an immediate halt to all of our income & the cancellation of all of our many planned events :( So, our staff have thrown themslves into volunteering, cooking & delivering food to people who are in self-isolation as part of the new project Solidarity Kitchen they helped to set up after the start of the crisis (ᵔᴥᵔ) !
OUR LIFE IN A YEAR
This crisis has come at a particularly bad time for us – we’d just passed the one year mark of being a new community business and finally with the New Year turned the corner in being able to cover our costs month on month. As a cooperatively run cafe/bar ☕ & social space in the heart of Digbeth, The Warehouse Cafe continues the legacy of the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Birmingham. It is the labour of love of a long process to set up a co-op to improve working conditions in the hospitality sector & take ownership whilst providing valuable accessible social space for like-minded individuals and groups to meet, discuss and organise. A space we felt was sorely needed in central Brum. Some of our highlights include: working together with no management or bosses , supporting the Youth Strikes for Climate ✿, our flat wage structure (cleaning or accounting, you get paid the same), our ‘pay it forward’ jar which has allowed us to meet some amazing people , and our jampacked events calendar✌♪!
COVID TIMES / WHERE WE ARE AT
Hospitality is not an easy ground, in fact, it’s a battlefield. The cafe’s monthly operating costs exceed £20,000. January and February are famously the most difficult financial times of the year in the sector, yet we started this year off with a ✰ BOOM ♕. Customers streamed into our cafe, we hosted exciting events & turned the deadest months into the best 2 months in our history! :D We reached our anniversary on 1st March full of hope and ideas, so unaware of the scale of what was going to come . We thought "the sky's the limit" and then... COVID-19. However, we are determined and not going to let the virus be the limit; the sky still stands!
And this is the moment we ask for your support. All of our income is through sales in our café through food and drink, making money through bustling events. We don’t yet know when we will be able to re-open, let alone be busy enough to break even. We are having to suddenly figure out new ways of operating, but this takes time ⌚ and resources . We are applying for grants and hoping the council will offer cash support to non business rate-payers like us, but at the moment we have little cash support from the Government. We still have on-going costs and overheads to cover, but as a workers’ co-op and not a charity, this makes most grants out of reach. We all earn minimum wage, and now that our staff are furloughed many members are struggling to survive on 80% of this and unfortunately we are not in a financial position to afford to top up the 20%. We desperately want to continue, not just to save 12 jobs but because the space we’ve created has turned out to be so valuable to social movements in the city, and are the biggest and newest and shiniest workers’ co-op in Birmingham so far ⍢. Your financial support could turn out to be a life-saver for both the Cafe and those crew members who struggle to survive on cut wages.♡
[N.B. As we have so much space in our kitchen and cafe, we had to do something, and so invited Co-operation Birmingham to use our space to run the Solidarity Kitchen. While we as individuals have been using our skills and volunteering for the Solidarity Kitchen, the two organisations are not financially linked and are separate from each other.]
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
We are asking you to support the continuation of The Warehouse Cafe project through donations. In true crowdfunder style we want to offer symbolic rewards as a thank you for supporting us. We will fulfill these rewards in the future when the co-op is up and running again. Below are guideline donation amounts but £1 will be appreciated just as much as £100. Just select how much you would like to donate, or type in your own amount! See below :-)
Here are some of the ways we anticipate spending the donations:
-> Supplement staff wages for those struggling on cut pay as well as paying the wages of staff not eligible for furlough pay
-> Develop our new model and vision for The Warehouse Cafe and community after the lockdown
-> Continue our feasibility studies for delivery company, veg box deliveries, coop cycle delivery, social distancing events
-> Cover our overheads and on-going costs
The reality that the world has changed in a huge way has not passed us by, we are going to have to think carefully and compassionately about how to run the cafe in a post-coronavirus world ✿ . We’re in the process of envisioning different ways to go forward, from focusing on delivery of our meals only to operating a veg box scheme, setting up a co-op cycle platform and/or a social distance cafe ☕ ☕. Initially, after the end of lockdown, we will be limited by the number of customers we can serve. We are a business that relies heavily on hosting popular events, this will have a significant impact on our income. Your donations will be used to support a variety of purposes as we creatively negotiate the next part of the story of The Warehouse Cafe to continue running it as a sustainable and healthy business.
... The business may be closed, for now, but the spirits are high and the place is alive!☼ The Cafe's premises, staffed with volunteers, now cater for the needs of vulnerable and lock-downed folks in Birmingham. We aim to continue supporting the Co-operation Birmingham project to grow; aiding the distribution of free food and resources to those in need and possibly expanding the solidarity economy in other exciting ways.
// We have nobody except each other // Solidarity in Separation //
Thank you to everyone for your support! ♡
❁ 'Rewards' ❁
£5 - Hot drink & your name chalked onto our shop’s window in gratitude!
£10 - Hot drink & cake
£20 - Loaded chips & drink or free exclusive tickets to our re-opening party when safe
£35 - Main meal & drink or massage by massage therapist
£60 - Meal for two & two drinks
£75 - Two-course meal & two glasses of wine plus free exclusive tickets to our re-opening party when safe
❁ If you would like to claim your reward, please send us an email ([email redacted]) with your name and the amount you donated and we will supply you with the relevant gift voucher once we're up and running again.
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