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Discussions ongoing over Hay’s Dock coffee shop

Hay's Dock Cafe Restaurant.

SHETLAND Amenity Trust is confident it will have an operator in place to run a coffee shop in the dormant Hay’s Dock Cafe despite receiving no firm interest after the contract first went out to tender.

Chief executive Mat Roberts told a meeting of the trust’s board on Friday that there were no bids from local businesses or individuals after its tender went out in January.

This was despite initial interest from 12 people.

After questioning why no bids were submitted, however, three expressions of interest have now been received and discussions with these parties are ongoing.

The cafe/restaurant in the upper floor of the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick closed abruptly last year after continuing to make losses.

Museum owner Shetland Amenity Trust decided to put out a local tender in January for a 12-month commercial tenant to run a coffee shop in the space using existing equipment.

But trust chief executive Mat Roberts told trustees at a meeting on Friday that the tender initially received “no formal returns” despite there being 12 parties interested.

“I went back to all 12 people who expressed an interest, and said why didn’t you return the tender documents,” Roberts said after Friday’s meeting. “I got seven different answers, as only seven people replied.

“As a result of that, I then got three of the seven who then came back and said well, we are interested.

“I think of the three who we are in discussions with at the moment, one will ultimately take on the opportunity.”

The amenity trust also intends to issue a full market tender for a cafe for the provisional period of 2020-25.

The organisation, meanwhile, is continuing to look into how to provide refreshments to visitors at the Sumburgh Head lighthouse when it opens for this year’s season on Saturday (30 March).

Its Stevenson Room cafe was shut off late last year after water came in below its large windows, with seating and floors having to be stripped back in efforts to source the problem.

Amenity trust board members were told on Friday that the cafe remains shut as negotiations continue with contractors.

Speaking after the trust’s meeting, head of engagement Sandy Middleton said: “We’re looking at options to provide refreshments just from within the gift shop.

“But obviously the main thing people want is the view and the windows, and we’re hopeful we’ll get that resolved relatively soon.”

She added that one option for the trust is to explore using outside caterers with mobile facilities, such as Katja’s Cakes.

The lighthouse complex, which was relaunched around five years ago after a £5.4 million redevelopment, is due to open for its 2019 season on Saturday.

“We’ve got the fog horn sounding at noon,” Middleton added. “We’ve got competition winners who have won the chance to open the valve on the fog horn. And anyone coming gets an earlybird ticket.”