Cafe culture plan for Oban

Donna and Archie MacCulloch

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A popular cafe in Oban is hoping to bring a taste of continental culture to the town as local businesses come back from the lockdown.

Donna and Archie MacCulloch, who own Roxy’s Coffee and Tea House, have proposed creating a ‘smart chic’ outdoor seating area on Airds Crescent, complete with bicycle parking.

The Argyll Square cafe’s kitchens have access onto the one-way street and it would require the use of two to three council-owned car parking spaces to accommodate up to 20 customers to collect takeaway orders.

The seated area would be secure and facing the pavement for safety.

The idea has been raised with councillors and the cafe has proposed making a contribution to Argyll and Bute Council to cover lost parking revenue.

Professional plans have been drawn-up, although no formal application has been tabled and the idea would need approval from the council.

Closed since March 19, the popular cafe has been in the town for 13 years. It employs seven staff, many of them long-serving.

Prior to the pandemic, it was able to accommodate 64 people indoors but with two-metre social distancing rules, that inside space could be slashed to just 20 – putting a question mark over its long-term viability.

Donna MacCulloch said that in light of the pandemic, a ‘new approach’ to help businesses adjust was required, and that the move would help demonstrate that the cafe is still open as the town attempts to come back from three months of lockdown

Initial response to the idea had been ‘positive,’ she said.

The cafe bakes all its own cakes, offers Full Scottish and vegetarian breakfasts, and like many eating establishments, relies on ‘turning tables’.

The idea has already won the backing of Andy Spence, of BID4Oban, who said he was ‘fully supportive’ of businesses wanting to explore new ideas.

Mr Spence said: ‘We would also say that in these difficult times for businesses, there may be situations where we need to free-up some on-street car parking spaces to allow businesses to do that safely, if it’s permissible.

‘No one likes taking car parking spaces away from the town but we also want to have businesses in the town for people to come into town, and we need to be as flexible as possible.’

He said Argyll and Bute Council was considering ‘lots of possibilities’ for Oban going forward. It has established an officer-led group looking at the easing of lockdown and the reopening of businesses, of which Mr Spence feeds in the views of local businesses.

Mr Spence added: ‘We are trying to find simple solutions. We are wanting to be able to issue the correct instructions to businesses for reopening and we want to do it once and once only, and get it right.’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish Government wants local authorities to be flexible as businesses come forward with new ideas after coronavirus.

Mrs Sturgeon said: ‘We will continue to support preparations for reopening, for example, by encouraging local authorities to facilitate the use of open outdoors spaces that pubs and restaurants can use for additional space.’

The plans