Cafe owner heartened by support over Covid closure fears

Sarah Doonan says the impacts of the virus have forced her into debt.

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An Elgin cafe owner says she’s been heartened by support after sharing her fears that Covid was going to force her to close her doors permanently.  

Sarah Doonan says the impacts of the virus have forced her into debt as recent research shows the average cost for small businesses in Scotland is more than £25,000 each.  

She opened Elgin’s first vegan eatery Café Kombucha in 2019 and was just about in the black financially when the pandemic struck.  

Sarah said “I get up at six o clock in the morning I am in work by twenty past and we make the salads for the day. I have gone for a cosy ambiance, where people can come and relax, all our décor and everything is upcycled. It has been a labour of love.

“Covid has been like a slow car crash, from a business point of view. People have been wonderful but a lot of people won’t still come out; they are scared. It has eased a bit since lockdown but as the ongoing regulations change, people don’t come out again.” 

Sarah also lives on the property and things got so bad with bills racking up she took to social media to share her situation and let customers know she may be facing no alternative but to close her doors for good.

Her Facebook post read – “Good morning folks. Lots of news today and most of it isn’t good.

“I’ve decided to fess up and tell you exactly where Cafe Kombucha is right now. We are on the heap I’m afraid, up the creek without a paddle.

“I know a lot of you will be as devastated as I am but I think I’m going to have to close the business. We just can’t go on.

“I’m in so much debt due to Covid that I haven’t slept for weeks, my health is suffering greatly. I owe rent, gas bills, loans etc and it’s killing me.”

A recent survey by insurers Simply Business estimated the virus has cost Scottish small firms more than £25,000 each on average – more than elsewhere in the UK.  

Sarah says “I am not sure we will recover and I thought my customers needed to know that. It’s a struggle to pay the bills at the moment, I am quite behind with a lot of things.

“We maxed out on loans from the Government, which are good loans, but they do need to be paid back and I think we have been kind of left on the shelf, like, ‘that’s it, Covid’s over, get back to normal’ – and it’s not happening that way because people are still nervous, not everybody is vaccinated, so it’s going to take a lot longer.

“I think the long term effect is catastrophic.” 

Sarah says she’s received a great response to her openness about her financial woes … she’s now thinking of crowdfunding to keep her dream alive.   

She says “I had around a thousand written responses to my post. It wasn’t what I wanted to do.

“Before Covid we were in the process of trying to take over part of the land next to the café and we were going to have a walled garden with a seated area. So I think we are just going to go for it anyway, do or die, and see how we go.”

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