Cafe owner sells up and plans to leave town

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:00 05/07/2014
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MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
UP AND GOING: Liz Butler of Millers Acre Cafe and Creperie has had to close her business.

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Beleaguered Nelson cafe owner Liz Butler has sold up her cafe items and closed the door on another difficult chapter of her life.

The auction yesterday of equipment from the Millers Acre Cafe and Creperie did not raise enough to wipe her debt, but everything sold.

The 57-year-old put everything she had into the cafe she bought three years ago, but was forced to shut the doors after changed circumstances around the lease tipped the balance between making money or making a loss.

The cafe, which closed last week, operated in city council-owned premises sub-leased from Apex Car Rentals which is moving its central city outlet down the road to premises it owned at 19 Halifax St.

Butler said she was facing what amounted to an 18 per cent rent rise, and despite having made a profit last year, the increase was unaffordable.

"I went to the council and put my case forward. I supplied them with accounts and figures and what I felt I could pay."

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese, who was not aware of the situation until this week, was "very disappointed" that the cafe business could not continue to operate.

Reese learned from staff that a valuation was sought and the council had tried to reach an agreement over several months, but it had to be guided by the valuation. She understood that the council could not undercut market valuations on a council premise to subsidise a commercial business.

Butler moved to Nelson five years ago from Ashburton and a job as a kitchen designer. When the recession hit, she was made redundant, so she sold her house in Stoke and ploughed the proceeds into the cafe business.

She has lost the money she put into the business and what it had taken to build it up.

She did not owe money to suppliers but had a bank loan she still had to service. She had hoped to reduce that with the proceeds from the auction of cafe and kitchen equipment.

The auction attracted 68 registered bidders and everything was sold, but the net $15,000 was not enough to pay off the loan.

"It was a full room and prices were good, but it was still only a drop in the bucket. It wasn't enough to solve my problems, but Lipscombe [auctioneers] did a great job," Butler said.

She now planned to leave town and would be heading north first to work on an organic market garden in exchange for board, before heading to England in September to work for her daughter's hospitality business in Cambridge.

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Butler then planned to return to Canterbury next February.

- The Nelson Mail

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