Hopes high that Hawick park cafe will reopen before summer is over despite operator pulling out

A popular cafe at the heart of a Victorian park in Hawick is expected to reopen before summer is over despite its current operator pulling out.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 4th June 2020, 10:12 am
The Refresh Pavilion Cafe at Hawick's Wilton Lodge Park.
The Refresh Pavilion Cafe at Hawick's Wilton Lodge Park.

The Refresh Pavilion Cafe opened in February 2018 amid much fanfare as part of a £3.64m revamp of the town’s Wilton Lodge Park.

However, before it had even opened, there were rumblings of discontent over the contract to run it being awarded to a company from outwith the Borders, West Yorkshire-based Caterleisure.

Those rumblings continued after it opened in the form of complaints that the prices being charged were out of reach of many ordinary families in the town.

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Inside the Wilton Lodge Park cafe.

There is believed to be considerable interest from potential new operators in taking over the outlet on a 10-year lease now Caterleisure, following discussions with Scottish Borders Council, the building’s owner, has decided to withdraw.

Because of the current coronavirus crisis, there has been no opportunity yet for potential bidders to carry out site visits.

It is hoped that will happen soon, though, and a clamour is building up locally for its new operator to be a firm or individual based within the Borders.

That’s certainly the view of Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall, and he told us: “I am led to believe that there has been some considerable interest in taking over the franchise for our park cafe.

Hawick councillors Watson MacAteer and Stuart Marshall outside the cafe in 2017 ahead of its opening in February the year after.

“I will certainly be asking Scottish Borders Council to give very serious consideration to any of our local traders who have decided to make a bid.

“The future of our town’s economy has never before required so much support, and awarding the contract to a local business which can run the cafe at affordable prices would certainly help support our town’s economy going forward.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer agrees, saying: “The council is currently receiving expressions of interest, all of which has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is expected that viewings will take place once lockdown guidelines permit and it is hoped that a new tenant will be appointed in mid to late July.

“I certainly hope that this is awarded to a local business or person.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “Following discussions with the current tenant, Scottish Borders Council agreed that we will look for a new operator for the Wilton Lodge Park cafe.

“Both parties have agreed to work together to ensure a smooth transition to the new operator.

“While we understand that this is a challenging time for businesses, we believe that offering this lease at the earliest opportunity is the best option.

“We have received notes of interest from a number of parties, but, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have not been able to carry out viewings yet.

“It is hoped these viewings can be carried out in the coming weeks, with a closing date for offers to then follow.”

A spokesperson for Bradford-based Caterleisure declined to comment.