Preston coffee shop Ham & Jam has closed - but the city's creative community wont let it go without a fight
Preston's creative community has joined forces in an attempt to rescue popular arts and coffee venue Ham & Jam after its closure last week.
The contemporary cafe in Lancaster Road closed its doors last week as a result of a loss of trade that it puts down to the nine months of ongoing road works around the cafe as part of the city’s regeneration plan.
Owner Richard Lowthian said: “It has just come to a point now where we can’t afford to carry on.
“Of course we welcome the regeneration of the city – they’re doing a fantastic job – but it has come at a cost to this part of the city.”
The venue opened in late 2015 years after being an empty shop for almost a decade before that.
It regularly played host to more than just coffee connoisseurs, being used as venue for poetry nights, art exhibitions, performance nights and even a pop-up restaurant this February.
Artists, performers, lecturers, poets and writers have now met to discuss a plan to save the coffee shop.
The group includes representatives from Preston Arts Association, Damson Poets, storytelling group Spark Preston, Derelict Theatre, Lancashire Fringe Festival, Oxheys Mill Studios and several independent creatives.
They are campaigning for special consideration to be given to Ham & Jam because of its "importance to Preston's arts community" and "the part it should play in the city's regeneration plan".
Damson Poets’ Terry Quinn said: “It is ironic that the purpose in doing these regeneration projects and improvement works is to provide an area to be known as an Arts Quarter.
“What is the point of trying to create such an area when it is simultaneously causing the closure of the type of business that is needed to make it a success?”
Terry added: “We think that Ham & Jam should be given compensation for their losses, which have been caused by the regeneration and improvement works.”
Richard confirmed to the Post plans are currently underway to close down the business.
The 52-year-old explained: “There’s nothing else we can do. We’ve put everything into this business to make it a success we are where we are.
“Sometimes small and medium business need help but the support isn’t there.”
Leader of Preston Council, Coun Matthew Brown, said: “It is disappointing to learn of Ham & Jam’s closure.
"The Council has supported the café since it’s opening, working with Richard on a variety of levels – including many staff and councillors personally having become loyal customers.
"Over the past few years it has been great to see Ham & Jam provide a venue to the local arts community, as we recognise the value of culture to Preston and continue to invest in it.
"However, despite our confidence that we have gone above and beyond in our support for Ham & Jam, as landlords we are unable to break confidentiality and discuss the specific details.”
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: "We have worked hard with businesses to schedule the regeneration work to try to minimise the impact on them. This has included providing signs to show businesses are 'open as usual'.
"The overall aim of the improvement scheme is to create a better city centre that appeals to businesses and shoppers, improving the experience for everyone who visits this part of Preston.
"However we obviously don't want to lose any existing firms and would encourage people to show their support while the improvement work is underway."