It's a Caribbean cafe - what are people to go there and expect?
A ROW has erupted after Islington Council ordered the closure of a popular Caribbean café in a youth centre because "it was not diverse enough".
Paul's Café, at the White Lion Youth Centre in White Lion Street, Islington, is being forced to serve its last portion of stewed chicken next month - despite a petition signed by more than 200 customers.
Work on a £3million refurbishment of the centre is due to start in September, but Islington Council has told café manager Paul Thomas his food "only appeals to a specific group of young people".
Citing the results of a consultation evening held in May, council leader Terry Stacy said: "It's vital we make sure what's offered is bang up-to-date and reflects the diversity this borough is famous for."
In a survey, 35 youngsters were asked what facilities they currently used at the centre. Around a third said Paul's Café, while 14 gave no answer at all.
Mr Thomas, 48, who has run the café for four years, said: "I've got over 200 signatures from all nationalities and backgrounds - Asian, Caucasian, Trinidadian, all over Africa. There are a lot of disgruntled people who are not happy at what the leader of the council said.
"I'm trying not to get into saying its racial but some people have said that. It's a lie to say we only cater for a certain group of people. If people ask for it, I do them white food, but everyone comes here because they want Caribbean food.
"White kids from the estates on Cally Road come here for it, people from Chapel Market come here - you don't have to be Caribbean to enjoy Caribbean food."
Of the 35 youngsters consulted just nine came from a Caribbean background. Others gave their ethnicity as British, Irish, Bangladeshi, Portuguese, Nigerian, Eritrean, Morrocan, Congolese, Kenyan and Somali.
The consultation report states: "A high proportion of individuals were buying food from the café. The young men in particular who were consulted valued the gym and café."
Michael Potten, 20, of Old Street, a youth worker and former head of EC1 Youth Forum, said: "I use it all the time. It gets a diverse range of people not just in terms of ethnicity but age as well.
"Everyone comes to Paul's from various different backgrounds - white, Turkish, Asian. It's quite upsetting because it's been there a long time, so why change it? How many people have Chinese food that aren't Chinese? Any background can enjoy food."
Centre user Natalie Harrison, 19, added: "I've done dance classes, DJ-ing and MC-ing here since I was a kid - the café is all part of that."
Councillor Terry Stacy, Leader of Islington Council, said: "The views of users and non-users were fully taken into account in coming to a decision. I understand some people will be sad to see Paul's café move out but the timeframe will allow him to relocate.
"We're taking a look at what facilities should be provided - not just refreshments but training opportunities for young people.
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