Filmhouse Cafe Bar has pulled the plug on its Tower Mill operation without any warning, and left Scottish Borders Council to pick up the pieces.
The shock announcement was made to 12 members of staff during a hastily arranged meeting on Wednesday night, and the company was due to empty its premises today (Friday). They are blaming failed financial negotiations with the council for making the decision to leave Hawick, only six months after taking over from former tenants Beanscene.
The loss of a cafe bar from the unique Heart of Hawick project will be a huge blow for the many loyal customers and cinema-goers, and just ahead of the 2014 Common-Riding celebrations and tourist season, however, SBC has promised to make every effort to retain a service. A spokesperson told the Hawick News: “The Council recognises the important role the Heart of Hawick, and its café, play in the centre of the town as a vibrant community facility. Following discussions on Wednesday we were surprised and disappointed that, without further recourse, Filmhouse decided to cease trading and terminate the employment of its staff. But SBC is seeking to put interim measures in place to keep the café operational, and if at all possible will look to use the existing café staff in providing that service.”
Filmhouse’s sudden departure has been slammed by local offials, with Councillor George Turnbull angrily stating: “It is unacceptable that Filmhouse are blaming Scottish Borders Council for their decision, as their operating plan should have been altered to address trading conditions.”
But stressing that there is a strong desire to keep the facility open, he added: “An interim plan will be put in place to provide emergency cover. I would ask that the public show their support in these difficult times and would like to assure everyone that a longer term solution will be found. Scottish Borders Council are fully committed to all operational aspects of Tower Mill and further information will be made available as soon as possible. Our thoughts must be with the staff and we hope alternative employment will be found in the very near future.”
Fellow elected member Stuart Marshall added: “To hear that Filmhouse are pulling out of their catering contract is extremely disappointing to say the least. My main concern is for the employees who have been caught up in this mess. But we have been given assurances that SBC are pulling out all the stops to ensure that disruption caused by the loss of this service will be kept to a minimum, and that the Council are working hard behind the scenes.”