Businesswoman’s Great Yarmouth cafe dream marred by vandalism

FOR someone whose business relies on good weather to bring out the crowds, Heather Papapetrou was surprisingly relieved to wake up to gusting winds and heavy rains this week.

For the inclement weather, at the tail end of the school holidays when she could reasonably hope for a late spell of sunshine, meant she didn’t have to open her cafe and run the gauntlet of grinding problems that have shattered her seaside dream.

Little more than 18 months ago the 44-year-old fell instantly for Munchies cafe in North Drive, Great Yarmouth, with its candy-striped beach huts dotted along the sands, an apparent oasis of calm just a stone’s throw from the Golden Mile.

This week however she was looking forward to the season’s end and the chance to turn her back on the vandalism, break-ins and stench that have tarnished her dream, while the council, she says, turns a blind eye.

“I am just so fed up,” she said. “The way I feel at the moment I cannot wait for October to come. This was my dream and I have put every penny I have into it. It was meant to be a new start with a new partner but it really has turned into a nightmare. Last year I had to sign on over the winter because I had not made enough money to keep me going even though we had given 110pc and worked seven days a week.

“It’s just been a downward spiral. Even the trains that run to the seafront are a problem because they just take people to the main strip.”

Running a seaside cafe would always be weather dependent with many factors influencing how much people are prepared to spend, she said.

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But Mrs Papapetrou, of Arundel Road, also criticises the council for not taking enough control of areas where they could make a difference by raking the beach more often and providing dog bins which would help her business and others at the north end of the seafront offering a quieter slice of seaside life.

Her tipping point came last week on Tuesday after a break-in which landed her with a �3,000 repair bill she will have to pay before the insurance comes through – leading her to repeat calls for CCTV.

Meanwhile anyone walking the dunes towards her cafe would have to pick their way through bags of dogs mess and overcome the stench from her worn-out soakaway – two further problems no-one seems willing to address, she says.

“I am not saying we don’t get anyone down her because that wouldn’t be true because we do get extremely busy. Elements of it are really right and we have worked hard to come up with a good menu using quality food, free-range eggs and farm sausages.

“But some of these things give a really bad impression of Yarmouth. So many people make comments about the dogs mess and the public toilets. I went to the Time and Tide Museum and did not recognise some of the places, the Waterways was absolutely stunning. Where has it all gone? It’s like someone along the line has just lost interest.

“All the council say is that they haven’t got any money yet every week they fire thousands of pounds of fireworks into the sky.

“Its just so frustrating.”

Michael Castle, whose council ward includes the cafe, said the northern end of the seafront had suffered from a lack of investment and that it was unfortunate the Integreat scheme had stopped at Britannia Pier.

He said: “Its a lovely area and people like that end of the beach but its a low priority on the council in terms of spend. I would like to see some private beach huts bringing in revenue for the council. Their ground rents could cover CCTV and help people like Heather.

“It must be the last straw when you suffer a break in and you are trying to serve food when you have a smelly drain. We need a real make-over for that area.”