Popular Delipod Hub in Willesden Green now closed due to 'financial difficulties' with high rates and rent
PUBLISHED: 18:57 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:09 30 October 2019
Library-goers in Willesden Green are furious that a much valued café attached to their community hub has been allowed to close.
A petition to save the Delipod Hub, attached to the library at Willesden Green in the High Road, has collected more than 900 signatures in a few days.
But it's already too late to save the popular café, which in two years has built up a steady clientele by putting on the area's only live music shows - but has also racked up debt from rent and service charges.
Owner and manager Peter Howson accepted a deal with Brent Council, which agreed to write off his arrears but only if he moved out. The Willesden Green Residents' Association (WGRA) first heard of the closure when the deal was already signed.
Mr Howson said the support of his neighbours and customers had come "as a complete surprise". "We didn't go out to get that support," he said. "It was the residents' group."
Hit by expensive business rates - originally £15,000 a year but reduced to £11,000 on appeal - he and his partner Serena Hadi "naively" hoped council officers would make adjustments to help them meet the rent.
"We thought for a long time something was going to be done - an adjustment to the rent as the business rates came in so expensive," said Mr Howson.
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"We thought we were doing cultural things consistent with the library. We thought this might be taken into consideration and it wasn't.
"Brent made it very easy for us to leave by writing off our arrears. Brent made it very difficult for us to stay."
But he added: "They've not been punitive - they've allowed us to move on."
Micala Fox, chair of WGRA, said: "This is a monumental loss to the community; its provision of music was the only on offer locally.
"It is virtually impossible to ameliorate the impact of losing Delipod in advance of Brent Borough of Culture 2020.
"Save the commissioned art pieces being provided to all Brent libraries, Willesden Green was all but overlooked in Brent Council's plans."
Regeneration chief Cllr Shama Tatler said it was "sad things have come to this".
"We helped Delipod when they were setting up shop and looked at ways to keep them at Willesden Green Library, but unfortunately that's not been possible," she said.
It is understood the cafe was given a year's free rent in recognition of the fit-out costs, but became liable to pay service charges and rent two years ago.