The Kitchen CT9 in Cliftonville will be closing its doors for good on Saturday, May 28.
The venue was set up in 2018 by couple Alexander Roarke and Ann Newstead under the umbrella of the Thanet Iceberg Project.
The Cliff Terrace café takes surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from local shops and superstores, created a simple menu with affordable prices, and was the first ‘pay what you can’ site in Thanet. It uses a two tier pricing system – “need it” and “want it”. Those who are willing and able to pay a fair price for their food and drink know that the profit from their orders goes back into the business to enable those less able to pay, to get the same quality and quantity of food at a vastly reduced rate.
It was also the first to open a community fridge sharing surplus food for free.
The community cafe was the flagship of the Thanet Iceberg Project which also runs The Loft – where pre-loved furniture and small household items are given and delivered for free to those who need them – and the Crossroads Project which has support workers to offer advice, support and where needed, practical assistance. Roarke and Ann also launched Off The Floor last month with the aim of building wooden beds and providing them to every child in Thanet who needs their own bed to sleep in.
Roarke says the decision to close The Kitchen CT9 is a response to the changing needs of the community.
The aim of assisting everyone to be able to afford a meal out is one that is less of a priority at a time of post-pandemic rising household and shopping bills, said the father-of-four.
He said: “When we established Thanet Iceberg Project four years ago, we set out with two key points in mind: we didn’t want to predefine need in our community, and we didn’t want to do the same as everyone else.
“Firstly, “need” is personal, individual, and isn’t static. We wanted to be able to react to the needs of those around us, without restriction, and didn’t want to fall into the trap of making a decision as to what the community needed, but rather to ask and react to what we were presented with.
“Secondly, we always described our work as being the mortar around the bricks, adding value to the work done by existing statutory and non-statutory bodies and community groups by filling in the gaps, doing the things they couldn’t, being flexible.
“In keeping with those principles, we are aware that society – big picture and small picture – looks quite different today to four years ago. We need to change with it.
“The Kitchen CT9 was our flagship project, our first love, aiming to build community through hospitality by making the quality-of-life thing of eating out accessible to all. The first pay-as-you-can place in Thanet, we have offered great food at the lowest possible prices through making use of surplus food and many, many volunteer hours. We launched the first Community Fridge in the whole of Kent, sharing surplus food – for free – to anyone able to make use of it.
“Our community reacted with support – local hospitality venues being very generous to help us get started, and members of the public donating. We have been open for three years and have a spectacular rating on Trip Advisor, have provided food and welcome to so many, as well as offering emergency support particularly through the pandemic.
“But our community now needs help with basics like feeding their children, heating their homes, providing for themselves and their loved ones. Their need is for direct, daily support rather than a meal out. To that end, The Kitchen CT9 in its current format will regrettably be closing its doors on Saturday 28th May.”
Roarke and Ann will now establish a new venture called The Lounge.
Roarke said: “We will be taking the time to establish “The Lounge” which will be a simpler, more relaxed venue next to our Loft premises at Westwood Business Park. “This will be a space where we can still do community, over a coffee and a pastry, that will also provide space for ourselves and other community support groups to use, in the more comfortable surroundings of a front room instead of a classroom or office.
“Our project The Loft is providing beds for children currently sleeping on floors and furniture for families without a table to sit at. The Crossroads project is helping an increasing number of people access desperately needed support and services. These services will all be accessible via The Lounge.”
Further details including addresses and opening hours will be available soon.