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Time and Tide cafe closure causes controversy

PUBLISHED: 17:33 28 January 2011

THE closure of a café proved to be the hottest talking point during a discussion of the fortunes of museums around Great Yarmouth.

At a borough council scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, councillors were given a presentation on how the Time and Tide, Tolhouse and Elizabethan museums were faring for the final quarter of 2010.

But it was the decision of the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service to close the Time and Tide’s café and replace it with a vending machine that sparked most debate.

Councillors heard museums’ eastern area manager James Steward, who went through the report alongside head of Norfolk museums Vanessa Trevelyan, explain the decision was taken “to provide efficiencies” following a £40,000-a-year shortfall.

“We get 65pc of our visitors over a four-month basis at the museum, and it’s difficult to sustain a catering offer on a permanent basis” he said, before adding, “we feel with a vending machine and sitting arrangements the customer service level will not be impacted too deeply.”

However, although Cllr Charles Reynolds pointed to the losses and voiced his support for the move, others spoke of their concerns, with Cllr Mike Taylor saying that he had enjoyed the café when visiting it for the winter talks programme.

It was agreed a private operator should be sought to re-open the café who might have a solution for the problem of seasonality, or a link with the nearby café at Great Yarmouth Potteries sought.

During the presentation, praised by those attending, councillors heard that though the Time and Tide attendance had decreased by 9pc between October and December it had increased by 10pc over the year.

At the Tolhouse, visitors figures had declined by 5pc over the year, while the Elizabethan House museum had seen a 6pc increase in the same period, but both the museums were shown to be ahead of target for school visits.

Finally, plans to move a stored collection of arts from the Yarmouth’s Central Library basement to the Time and Tide to reduce their exposure to flood risk were also discussed.

The move comes alongside efforts to reduce collections in storage and reduce duplicate artefacts in an attempt to save money.

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