Business / Coffee shop in museum won’t re-open this year as lack of summer trade makes cafe ‘unviable’

Owner Emma Macdonald also wishes to focus time on councillor role as Shetland recovers from Covid-19 pandemic

Shetland Museum and Archives.

THE CAFE which runs from the upper floor of the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick has decided it will not re-open this year as it is “simply not viable” to continue without summer trade.

Emma Louise’s Coffee Shop moved into the museum last year after originally operating from premises on Commercial Road.


Business owner Emma Macdonald also said she needs to focus on her role as a councillor as Shetland moves into the renewal and recovery phase of the response to coronavirus.

Macdonald said she was “really sad” for the staff, with five part-timers on the books. However, one was already heading to university and another two have other jobs.

The museum has been shut since March when public buildings were closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Even when it does re-open footfall is expected to take a hit with the tourist trade to Shetland set to be limited, while physical distancing measures will likely be in place.

Emma Louise Macdonald (left) and partner Joe Macdonald (right) with former SAT chairwoman Ruth Mackenzie last year.

“We have done the maths and it’s just not viable without the summer trade,” Macdonald said.

She added that her team wanted to “thank everyone for their support over the last eight years”.

“I will have plenty to keep me busy in my role in the council and I need to focus on that role at the moment,” she added.

“The renewal and recovery phase will be vital for the community and I need to be able to give that my all. As chair of the IJB and the depute leader I want to be able to focus all of my time on this.”


Macdonald, who now also chairs the council’s planning committee, suggested however that the cafe still has a future.

This could, in theory, include re-opening in the museum in 2021.

“We are going to be seeing what happens next year and we will see how things go,” she said.

“It’s not goodbye forever just for now.”

Amenity trust chief executive Mat Roberts said the organisation is working with the cafe to see when they can re-open.

“We appreciate the fact that they have been very open and honest with us, and we appreciate their struggles,” he said.

“We also understand that having some kind of refreshment offer available to people when we do reopen the museum will at some point be important.

“At this stage it is unlikely that we will be able to offer a full service [upon] reopening, under the current requirements from the government. We’ll work with her and [partner] Joe to get them open as soon as it is practicable.”

Prior to Emma Louise’s Coffee Shop the museum was host to Hay’s Dock Cafe, which was run in-house by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shetland Amenity Trust. The restaurant closed in 2018 after running up continued losses.