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Inverness community café gets second lifeline from High Life Highland after threatened closure

By Ian Duncan

A second lifeline has been thrown to a much-loved Inverness community café as part of an expansion in catering provision by High Life Highland (HLH).

HLH has announced it is to take over the running of café facilities at Hilton Community Centre which were previously run by charity Archie Highland and Cobbs.

The organisation is also to take over at the café at Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery, also run by Cobbs.

HLH chief executive Steve Walsh said: "The charity's commercial arm has been operating the catering provision at Inverness Leisure, Canal Park, the museum and art gallery as well as at the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore.

"We recently put the Hilton Community Centre coffee shop operation out to tender but, having listened to the requirements of the local community, we are now of the view we can deliver the service internally.

"By doing so, HLH will be protecting and securing the much-requested coffee shop service to this area of the city as well as ensuring the ongoing employment of the staff currently working on site."

He said they had considered all catering provisions delivered by HLH and a further decision had been taken to bring the catering at Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery in-house as well.

He added: "HLH has advised the incumbent provider of its intention and will look to work with the Cobbs team to ensure a smooth transition for our customers over the next six months. Part of which will also be the protection of the staff currently working at the coffee shop unit who will be offered the opportunity to transfer to work for HLH.

"HLH is extremely appreciative for the way in which Cobbs management and staff have worked with HLH's own staff to build the venue, making it a popular visitor attraction in the city alongside the other sites in the Bught area that are also operated by HLH.

"HLH believes that bringing all catering provision in-house will offer a much wider opportunity to develop the catering provision to our many customers. At the same time the new provisions will generate new income streams that will remain within the charity to assist in financially protecting HLH's core service provision across the Highlands."

The Hilton Community Centre coffee shop with its soft play area and hub for healthcare and local information opened just over five years ago in a joint venture involving Cobbs, the community centre and children’s hospital charity the Archie Foundation.

The foundation, which supports sick youngsters at the Highland Children's Unit in Raigmore Hospital, previously announced it was regrettably pulling out at as the café was running at a loss and was no longer sustainable.

With dismayed customers including a group of mums calling for it to be saved, Cobbs initially agreed to keep it going while it was in talks with another charity about taking it over.

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