A VEGAN café owner says she is being forced to relocate because she cannot keep up with soaring business rates.

The Larder, in Gardner Street, Brighton, has been open for four years and has become a favourite deli for many.

Owner Georgina Archer said closing was a difficult decision but high business rates and other bills have left her with no options but to relocate.

She said: “The expensive business rates have driven out so many independent shops in Brighton.

“Each month I pay £860 just for business rates. On top of water, electricity, gas, waste collection and other costs like lighting in the street it adds up to £1,500.

“Business rates are out of our control, so we are looking for a new location with more flexible rates.

“They are crippling a lot of small businesses, which is a shame because Brighton is well-known for having an array of independent shops.

“We are looking at options like a pop-up shop or having a stall in a market. We are still looking for a new place, preferably in Brighton.

“It’s getting more difficult for small businesses.

“We try our best to maintain our trade and we make sure we pay employees the national living wage.

“We’d rather pay more but it’s the cost of the bills and rates that are forcing traders to close their shops.”

Ms Archer also managed a restaurant next to the cafe, the Manor, for eight years but it had to close last year due to business rates.

She said: “I ran the restaurant at the same time as the café. The Manor became unsustainable because the business rates cost is £1,200.

“It’s a shame to move away from this location because it’s such a nice place and everyone is so friendly.”

Staff member Liv Carder said: “This place is a home for all of us and we have built a really good reputation.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet a lot of great people and we have successfully established a loyal customer base.

“The café switched to a vegan menu last year and it has become very popular. We not only have young people coming to our cafe, but we have attracted different age groups. We’ve even converted many people to start a vegan diet. It’s a pity that we have to close the shop here.

“Brighton is a place for small businesses and that’s why we attract many tourists.

“However, it’s really sad that some couldn’t last because of business rates.

“It’s not that traders aren’t trying, we work really hard ourselves but the cost of business rates are beyond our control.”

The cafe’s last day in the North Laine was yesterday.

A spokesman from Brighton and Hove City Council said: “Business rates are set by the Government. About half of the money goes to central government, and we put the other half towards the cost of local services in Brighton and Hove.”