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Take a look inside Newmarket’s newest café

PUBLISHED: 19:30 16 October 2020

Some of the cafe's staff with the new 'pay it forward' post-it note board. Customers will either be able to donate a coffee, or redeem a free one Picture: Julia Jonsson

Some of the cafe's staff with the new 'pay it forward' post-it note board. Customers will either be able to donate a coffee, or redeem a free one Picture: Julia Jonsson

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The New Astley Café accompanies The Racing Centre’s other facilities, including an on-site gym and conference rooms

Barista-style coffee and freshly-made sandwiches are available at the new cafe Picture: Helen McGaffinBarista-style coffee and freshly-made sandwiches are available at the new cafe Picture: Helen McGaffin

One Suffolk community centre has recently unveiled its brand-new café - with a hot drink initiative that it hopes will bring the people of Newmarket together.

The Racing Centre’s New Astley Café opened earlier this month, following a revamp of the hub’s former bar.

“Historically, the café was a bar but we did a survey to find out what local people wanted, and what we found was the bar wasn’t the greatest fit towards the end of the year, so we decided to revamp it and make it into a more attractive venue,” explained centre manager John Gilbert.

After talking to funders and grant-making trusts, the centre put in grant applications and received money from the Shadwell Fund, Godolphin and the John Pearce Foundation - a charity that supports both current and former horseracing participants, whether equine or human. From the three donors, it received a whopping £153,000 in total.

The new cafe replaces the centre's former bar following customer feedback and a number of grants Picture: Julia JonssonThe new cafe replaces the centre's former bar following customer feedback and a number of grants Picture: Julia Jonsson

“At the beginning of April, we were awarded our grants and we began the building work on Monday June 8. It all came together quite quickly, simply because everything was shut at that point, so there was not much business interruption that took place. Our aim was to create somewhere that people would come back to and feel a bit more secure about, with a welcoming atmosphere.

“We actually had a quite a bit of space to work with, so we chopped it right back and got rid of that bar feel and all of the hard finishes such as the shutters that were in place. We’ve gone for a real soft, open environment, and we only have seven tables in total for social distancing purposes. It’s quaint and we want it to feel as cosy and comfortable as possible, but keeping safe is the main factor.”

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In the run-up to its grand opening earlier this month, the café took all of its former bar staff and retrained them, giving them a new set of skills to ensure they were confident in running the New Astley Café.

The 'pay it forward' board, where customers can donate a coffee to anyone who wishes to claim one Picture: Julia JonssonThe 'pay it forward' board, where customers can donate a coffee to anyone who wishes to claim one Picture: Julia Jonsson

“As part of our grants, we were awarded funding for a coffee machine, so we now do barista-style hot drinks including cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos, and even free babyccinos for the little ones.” The café also offers a reduced menu, with customers being able to order paninis, sandwiches and a number of breakfast options such as eggs, bacon, sausages and beans on toast.

In addition to its new facilities and menu, John is especially keen to point out the café’s new charitable initiative that it has recently introduced.

“A campaign we’ve just launched is a ‘pay it forward’ scheme, where people can pay for a hot drink upfront, write it down on a post-it note and stick it to a board. A stranger can then take one of the notes to the front, and redeem a free hot drink. It’s just a small something to help people out during these current times.

“Every coffee bought in the café supports our charitable objectives, with everything in here going back into the community in the forms of grants and other initiatives.”

Additional initiatives within the centre include its 50% discount rate for any of the group’s retired stable staff who hold a racing pass.

“Something we’re trying to push however is that the centre was based on a membership scheme – but we’ve since scrapped that about two and a half years ago, and The Racing Centre is now open to everyone. We’ve got a gym on-site that anyone is welcome to use, which is as Covid-secure as it possibly can be. We also have meeting and conference rooms available, and we host a whole number of children and adult groups here weekly, such as coffee mornings and art classes.

“While we were closed in the meantime, we spent a lot of time getting very involved with the Covid response. We’re working with a group of volunteers, administering the Coronavirus helpline from the centre, alongside actioning a lot of tasks. For instance, a lot of people still can’t do their weekly shops, so we’re doing that for them. There’s a lot more we do within the wider community which people might not be aware of.”


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