After much discussion, prayer and reflection it was agreed at a recent meeting of staff and Trustees that we will not be seeking a renewal of the license to run No34 when the current licence ends at the end of December.
This decision was reached unanimously, though not without sadness, disappointment and a deep concern for those most affected, particularly paid staff and regular volunteers, loyal customers and those who have come to see No34 as a key part of their community.
As a group we came to the conclusion that the building of 34, Hill St was not a place in which we could continue to see the café, its team and the groups and activities within it thrive.
Firstly, the constraints of the building make the demands of running a café business there great. Running costs, especially rent, are very high and the café currently does not break even. The physical layout is tiring for those working there regularly. Disabled access is almost nil. There is no room for expansion of the business as storage space and capacity to increase the number of covers are limited. Growing the business would put more pressure on our volunteers. We have explored numerous options including running the café fully staffed or moving to another High St location. However, none provide a realistic alternative that might be sustainable either in terms of finance or personnel.
Secondly, groups and communities that have found a home at 34, Hill St need not come to an end. Indeed it is likely that they can grow and thrive further in other venues in Poole town centre. In particular both Space for Life, the craft-in community and Reconnect have grown in the 3 years since we took on the café and are both at a point where greater space will benefit their development.
No34 has been a success in many ways. Our vision “to be a welcoming place of hope and creativity that helps us to live ‘life to the full’” has been the experience of so many people. There will undoubtedly be a sense of loss of this place. However, the ministry of No34 is primarily about people and relationships and we believe there is much passion and potential for the vision that No34 developed to be realised in other places and other ways. We are therefore engaging with all interested parties in taking forward all that is valued within No34. We are, for example, already talking with the High St Methodist Church as they plan to open their café before the end of the year. It seems clear to us however, that the vision within this particular place needs to be put down, perhaps to rise again somewhere else. As Jesus said ‘unless a kernel of wheat fall to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (John 12:24)
Finally, PMC would like to thank all those who have worked incredibly hard to make No34 such a life-giving and loved place over the past 3 years. No34 has been a fantastic achievement and a genuine community effort. We wait in hope and trust that through God’s direction and provision something will remerge that expresses that same commitment and heart for the local community and in which we can join with one another to enable people to live ‘life to the full’.