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Popular Lewes railway cafe back on track after u-turn
The Runaway Cafe is to stay at Lewes Station after a dramatic u-turn by Southern.
Staff were preparing to close after the rail firm put the lease out for tender and then awarded the contract to the Flying Coffee Bean.
But after the coffee firm was hit with a backlash from Runaway supporters, it withdrew its offer amid accusations of “intimidation”.
Yesterday it was confirmed Southern had given the lease back to the Runaway.
Cafe owner Jackie Elsey said: “We are absolutely over the moon.
“I was not aware about what was going on but I was humbled that so many people were showing their support for the cafe.”
There had been a huge outcry from customers, with 5,000 signing a petition, after Southern announced the lease would be put out to tender at the end of last year.
Many of those customers flocked to the company’s Facebook page to threaten to boycott the new store when it was announced the Flying Coffee Bean was to take over the station cafe from Runaway, which had been there for 24 years.
Posters complained Southern had broken its pledge to find a small, independent business after it was revealed the Flying Coffee Bean was owned by national company DP The Drinks People, which has offices in Birmingham and London.
But Barny Clevely, the managing director of Flying Coffee Bean, said his company has been “misrepresented” and accused residents of “intimidation”.
In a statement he said: “There appears to be a small but very vocal minority who have made it clear of their intentions to mount a broad attack on our business activities outside of Lewes.
“It is too much to ask of my loyal and incredibly hard working team, to deal with this contingent whose activities have verged on direct intimidation.”
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