Is it the end of the road for popular cabbie café struggling to pay rent?

A street sign directs cabbies to the Cab-In

Published: September 15, 2011

FOR cab drivers looking to refuel on cups of tea and bacon sandwiches, the hut on the hill is an oasis.

But the Cab-In Cafe, which is perfectly pitched next to a taxi rank on Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, with more than 100 years of history to its name, is facing closure in the face of rising rents and fierce competition. Its lease runs out on November 20 and manager Gail Dontas does not know whether she can meet increased costs.

Ms Dontas, who has served from the Cab-Inn for nine years, said: “Takings have halved in the last three years. Sometimes I’m working 50-hour weeks and going home with no wages.

“I said then when the lease came up three years ago that a price freeze wouldn’t be enough, I needed the rent to be lowered as it just wasn’t proving profitable. We’ve had some interest, but when people find out how much the rent is they don’t want to know.”

The 52-year-old said she had to pay landlords, the Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust, around £500 a month to keep the Cab-In afloat.

The hut, which was built in the early part of the 20th century, is on English Heritage’s protected list.

Ms Dontas said: “We have one driver who has been coming here for 40 years. There are about 10 or 12 regulars in every day, who always come in at the same time. It’s a meeting point, and there’s a community here.”

When the New Journal visited the café this week, one regular, Norman, 77, said: “It’s always been great, always fair. The food’s always good for you and it’s nice to get out and have something to eat. You can’t be working eight hours non-stop. There are other places to go but they’re out of the way and you don’t get the same sense of community.”

Chairman of the Trust Geoff Berridge said he was hopeful the café would not close. He added: “We are discussing the future of the café and the negotiations are where they should be. We have until the end of November to finalise a new deal.”

The charity also own the popular pub and restaurant The Wells Tavern in Well Walk, Hampstead.


Post new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.