Popular tofu cafe says rent rise forced it to close down

Friday, 17th June — By Anna Lamche

The Arty Vegan image0

Ellora, Veena and Maurelio Torchia in happier times for their vegan deli

A HUGELY popular family-run cafe has been forced to close after the rent was doubled.

Ellora Torchia, 30, along with her mother Veena and father Maurelio, said they had gone through the “heart­warming, heart­breaking procedure” of closing the shop they had opened together.

The Arty Vegan was a cafe and deli just off Chapel Market serving hand-crafted vegan food, specialising in the tofu Mr Torchia makes by hand.

Although the business was still in its fledgling stage, having opened just over a year ago, it had already built up a large base of loyal customers.

The family ran regular free workshops and events from their shop.

“We were really building the community vibe there,” Ms Torchia said.

“It was a hub for emotional release and collectivity.”

Despite their success, in May a shock rent increase arrived and the family said they had no option but to close.

The monthly rate went from “roughly £3,000 to about £6,000,” Ms Torchia said.

“They said: ‘prices are being hiked everywhere, ask anyone’,” she added.

“We did ask around. A lot of places in Chapel Market that have been there for years pay a flat rate.

“Some people have fought with their landlords for a better price.”

The statistics show this closure is part of a broader trend on the high street.

According to a recent “State of London” GLA report, business closures in the capital are outstripping the number of launches for the first time in years.

Ms Torchia said that during the shop’s closing period “every day there was a queue of people”, adding: “I think that was the hardest bit, knowing that we wouldn’t be there for those wonderful people.”

She said she will miss Chapel Market.

“It’s one of those special places in London where there’s such a mix of people,” she said. “It’s such a melting pot of culture and class and race and age and sexuality. It’s so diverse – that’s what we loved best.”

On their last day, there were “a lot of tears and hugs”, and Ms Torchia added her customers bought “every single bit of our stock” in a gesture of support.

“The high street is not the same,” she said.

“The way people eat, shop and spend their money is just not the same as it used to be.”

In the coming months, Ms Torchia will instead be focusing on building an app that will combine a community platform with the ability to share vegan recipes. “It’s about constantly adapting to the crisis, and some­times also adapting just before it hits,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Town Hall has said it is committed to help­ing all businesses based in Chapel Market. In a previous report in the Tribune Cllr Asima Shaikh, Islington’s former jobs chief, said: “Chapel Market is at the heart of the Angel, well-known and well-loved by local residents and shoppers from near and far.

“We’re committed to investing in Chapel Market so it goes from strength to strength as a bustling, central part of our thriving local economy, as we create a more equal future with jobs, bus­inesses and opportun­ities for local people.”

The cafe’s landlord was contacted for comment by both phone and email but the Tribune had not received a response before going to press.

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