Former cafe owners say telling their regular customers the business was shutting was “horrendous”.
Kevin and Beckie Coe bought The Bay Cafe, in Macandrew Bay, in September 2015 and closed the doors for good two months ago.
They said they believed high rent and an inadequate building contributed to the liquidation of their business.
The couple, who are originally from the United Kingdom, were living in Whanganui when they visited Dunedin in March 2015 and “fell in love” with the city.
The couple signed the lease and moved into the one-bedroom apartment above the cafe with their son, now 8, but soon noticed the roof and doors leaked, and there was “black mould” on the curtains and windows.
Mrs Coe said they approached the landlords about getting the mould, leaks and lack of heating rectified, which was only done when their lawyer got involved.
They moved out of the apartment in July 2016 when Mrs Coe was pregnant with their second child.
Renting the building cost about $6000 a month, which included outgoings such as water, rates and insurance, Mrs Coe said.
They were advised by real estate agents and their accountant the rent was too high but, having looked at the previous owners’ books, “figured we could make it work”, she said.
Despite having to shut the business, Mrs Coe said she did not feel as though the couple had failed. They improved its social media presence, introduced new food to the menu and decorated the inside of the cafe.
The couple still got messages from customers asking about the cafe.
They worked seven days a week in the final few months to keep labour costs down – Mr Coe was often working 13-14 hour days – so they were now enjoying spending more time with their family.
Mrs Coe admitted because they were not in Dunedin when they acquired the lease, they might have “missed some things along the way”.
“However, at the end of the day, the building was not sufficient.”
If it were not for the high rent and inadequate building, “I think we would still be there loving it”.
In a statement to The Star, the landlords said: “We are disappointed that our former tenant has decided to take this to the media.
“We do not accept their comments regarding the state of the building and we consider that the rental charged was a fair market rental.
“We hope to secure a new cafe tenant shortly and we will not be making any further public comment.”
Edinburgh Realty commercial agent Merrin Bath said the rent on commercial buildings could be dependent on the size of the premises, turnover of the business and quality of the fit-out.
Between $230 and $350 per square metre was a base annual rental for Dunedin hospitality premises, she said.
Rent tended to be higher the closer the building was to the city centre.
The Dunedin City Council has not been made aware of any issues relating to the building.