Why cafe cul­ture isn’t ev­ery­one’s cup of tea

DE­BATE RAGES OVER WHETHER CHANG­ING FACE OF TRENDY RAMS­BOT­TOM’S HIGH STREET IS POS­I­TIVE OR NEG­A­TIVE

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By THOMAS GE­ORGE thomas.ge­[email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @MENNews­desk

IT is a de­bate that does not look like go­ing away any time soon in one of the trendier parts of Greater Manch­ester.

Reg­u­larly hailed as one of the best places to live in the north west, Rams­bot­tom’s pic­turesque lo­ca­tion and close prox­im­ity to Manch­ester have made it a pop­u­lar spot for young pro­fes­sion­als look­ing to start a fam­ily.

To cater for the new de­mo­graphic mov­ing to the area, a se­ries of bars, cafes and restau­rants have sprouted up in re­cent years.

While the in­flux has been wel­comed by some, oth­ers re­sent the changes and fear the town is in dan­ger of los­ing its char­ac­ter.

And James Pritchard knows firmly which side he sits on.

“It’s be­com­ing a town full of bars and cafes,” says the 26-year-old, whose fam­ily runs an ice cream shop, Mrs P’s Lux­ury Ice Cream, in Rams­bot­tom’s Mar­ket Place.

“Rams­bot­tom is seen as a wealthy area and a nice place to live, which at­tracts peo­ple to open these kinds of busi­nesses, but there’s so many now that it’s un­sus­tain­able.”

One of the most re­cent ad­di­tions to the town is Amelia’s, a cafe which opened on Bolton Street in the heart of the town last month.

Mean­while, plans to turn the former RBS branch in Bridge Street into a restau­rant and bar also emerged re­cently, and were met with a mixed re­ac­tion from res­i­dents.

Rams­bot­tom res­i­dent Michelle Badja was one of those who ob­jected to the pro­pos­als.

She said: “I sug­gest enough is enough, we need more than just restau­rants and bars in Rams­bot­tom. We need a book shop or more cloth­ing/tourist type out­lets for di­ver­sity be­fore we are only good for beer/ food or get­ting your nails done.”

Mean­while, Pa­tri­cia Ben­nett said she feels the town is ‘los­ing its heart.’

She added: “I just won­der how many more bars and cafes Rams­bot­tom needs. It used to have a good va­ri­ety of shops but not any more.

“Hav­ing ba­si­cally what is be­com­ing a night time econ­omy must be very hard on peo­ple who live in the town cen­tre. I want to see Rams­bot­tom pros­per but in a more in­ter­est­ing and di­verse way.”

As Rams­bot­tom’s stock has surged, peo­ple who might pre­vi­ously have cho­sen to move to places such as Dids­bury or Chorlton are opt­ing to set­tle there.

And as de­mand to live in the town has in­creased, so have house prices.

The fact that the boom in new restau­rants, bars and bou­tiques has come as tra­di­tional high street busi­nesses, such as butch­ers, newsagents and banks, con­tinue to fall by the way­side is partly be­hind peo­ple’s con­cerns.

That may be a na­tional is­sue stretch­ing far be­yond these streets in the shadow of the West Pen­nine Moors, but it’s a con­cern for some res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers.

Not ev­ery­one is against the changes, though.

Sev­eral of the town’s restau­rants have been named among the best in the coun­try in re­cent years, while Span­ish duo Baratx­uri and Le­van­ter have been named in the Good Food Guide 2020.

Some within the town are glad of the pub­lic­ity that suc­cess brings and be­lieve it helps to at­tract vis­i­tors.

Ja­son Wil­lett is the owner of Ish­er­wood’s fur­ni­ture shop, which has called the town home for more than a cen­tury.

He said: “There are a lot of cafes and bars open­ing, but I think it’s bril­liant. How can it be a bad thing? You don’t want empty premises and peo­ple love com­ing out to Rams­bot­tom at night.

“One thing that has changed is that it used to be pubs, whereas now they’re open­ing trendy wine

bars. I don’t think the town has changed all that much. The high street here is still up with the best in the coun­try.”

While dozens of na­tional chains can be found in the shop­ping cen­tres down the road in Bury, Rams­bot­tom has al­ways prided it­self on be­ing a tight-knit com­mu­nity that sup­ports in­de­pen­dent busi­nesses.

But within the last decade, a num­ber of su­per­mar­kets have opened stores in the town, while the ar­rival of a Star­bucks drive-thru ear­lier this year was met by re­sis­tance from some lo­cals.

As some of the town’s more tra­di­tional busi­nesses have shut, more con­tem­po­rary ones are re­plac­ing them. This is in con­trast to other parts of the re­gion, where empty shops have be­come an in­creas­ingly com­mon sight.

Sa­lons, a bridal shop and a cake shop are among those to open in Rams­bot­tom within the last year, re­flect­ing the chang­ing na­ture of the Bri­tish high street.

An­other new ad­di­tion is Plen­ti­ful, a ‘plas­tic-free’ shop that opened in Sil­ver Street last year.

It has proved such a hit that owner

Ab­bie Sell­ers was forced to seek out big­ger premises, which she has since found in nearby Bridge Street.

She said: “There are so few towns with in­de­pen­dent shops and it’s special when you see some­where that does.

“A lot of peo­ple are ap­pre­ci­at­ing the beauty of the place and mov­ing here be­cause of that.

“It would con­cern me if the whole town was night­time places to eat and drink, but the restau­rants here have put Rams­bot­tom on the map as a foodie place. If they are the type open­ing then so be it be­cause they’ll bring peo­ple in.” While it may be in the midst of change, Rams­bot­tom does still have its quirks. Ev­ery Septem­ber, the town plays host to the World Black Pud­ding Throw­ing Cham­pi­onships, where par­tic­i­pants toss black pud­dings in an at­tempt to dis­lodge a stack of York­shire pud­dings.

A nod to the cen­turies-old ri­valry be­tween the coun­ties of Lan­cashire and York­shire, it shows that tra­di­tion still has a place in the town’s heart.

But as Rams­bot­tom’s streets con­tinue to evolve, the bat­tle for its fu­ture is only go­ing to rage on.

ALL PHOTOS: JOEL GOOD­MAN

In­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers in Rams­bot­tom are prov­ing fash­ion­able with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and those trav­el­ling from neigh­bour­ing towns

Lo­cal il­lus­tra­tor Imo­gen Richards, who has dec­o­rated many of the shop’s win­dows on the high street Ab­bie Sell­ers of Plen­ti­ful Plas­tic Free Shop Jimmy Need­ham, 79, with his cof­fee cup topped up by Choco­late Cafe The Smith fam­ily visit from Rad­cliffe. L-R: Ju­lian, 49; Ruby, 12; Noah, four; and Theo, seven

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