Community-Owned Cafe, Naked Lunch, Brings Heart Warming Food to Smithdown
431 Smithdown Road Limited is a multi-stakeholder cooperative that trades through the successful Naked Lunch Café, which is based at 431 Smithdown Road in south Liverpool. The cooperative was formed by members of the local community in order to save a popular local café that was in danger of closing following the proprietor’s illness. The purchase of the lease, the refurbishment of the premises and the business start-up were all financed from members’ investment and subsequent revenues are 100% derived from the café’s trading activities.
Following support from Everton Development Trust under the Enterprise Hub, the cooperative was incorporated on 10th November 2016 (FCA Mutuals Registration Number 4341) and currently has 49 local investor members. The cooperative has been a key addition to the Smithdown Rd townscape, providing a beacon for community ownership and independent trading to counter the creeping dereliction and explosion of fast food takeaways from the north of the road and the spread of generic chain operations from the south. To this end, 431 Smithdown Road aims to be an exemplar of local wealth building and retention as a means of community regeneration.
Naked Lunch café employs 14 staff across a range of functions, including front of house and kitchen staff. First year turnover was £380,000 and second year turnover is projected to be £420,000. This rapid growth in sales revenue saw the café quickly pass the VAT threshold and the challenges that this presents.
In addition to being a café, Naked Lunch is also a popular and flexible venue. Since opening, the café has hosted numerous exhibitions, gigs and community events. Naked Lunch is an established venue for the annual Smithdown Rd Festival and has also played host to a number of sell-out performances by artists of local, national and international repute.
Naked Lunch provides an ideal exhibition space. The layout and ambience have attracted exhibitions from a range of diverse artists, including Joel Goldberg, Paul McCoy, Emma Boutet, Eimer Cavanagh, Jim Sharpe and Phil Hayes. In addition, the cafe has been used by the Writing on the Wall literary festival and as a venue for book launches and readings by an array of authors and poets.
Following the success of Naked Lunch Café, the cooperative is considering expansion into the ground floor of the adjacent premises at 429 Smithdown Road. This expansion will enable the café to provide a wider range of events, including exhibitions and concerts, as well as generate increased income from more tables, a larger kitchen and increased licensed trade.
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