TWICKENHAM'S popular riverside cafe has closed its doors for the last time despite a last minute plea to Richmond Council to extend its lease.
Adrienne Rowe, who owns Arthur's by the River, said she was sad to say goodbye to her loyal customers.
"We have had to hand the keys back to the council and say goodbye to our lovely staff who, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs. It seems such a short time since we served our first customer on August 17 2005."
Mrs Rowe has openly opposed the council's plans for the riverside, which include a river centre and luxury housing complex, and held an exhibition of campaigners' alternative plans for the area in the cafe.
"Not a day has gone by without someone asking 'what is going to happen to the rest of the site?'. We have always provided as much information as possible, and this may ultimately have been our downfall in the council not giving us the option to temporarily extend out lease."
Council leader Serge Lourie has denied these claims and said it had always been agreed that the cafe would be handed back to the council at the end of its lease.
Plans for the riverside development have been approved by council and a developer, Countryside, agreed. Until planning permission is obtained the council plans to use the cafe to provide work experience for people with learning disabilities.
"We had hoped the council would extend our lease on a temporary basis until they had given the developer planning permission," said Mrs Rowe. "To have to close down in June is particularly hard for such a small business as it is only during the summer months that we recoup the costs incurred during the previous quiet winder. Unfortunately this option was never on the table.
"It is very said that we have a situation, particularly in this economic climate, where a thriving business such as ours should be closed down like this.
"There have, over the years, been so many wonderful times at the cafe. We have watched the babies grown into happy, healthy children, getting exercise and fresh air in the playground. We have welcomed both regular and new customers coming to spend a little time relaxing before going back to their busy schedules.
"We have held many events from chocolate dipping to fun days and our most recent D Day celebrations, all of which I think bring people together. It's been so rewarding and we are grateful and give thanks to have had the kind support of the community."
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