Rocco’s boss explains closure decision

Jeremy Harper of Rocco's Coffee fame. NNL-160811-142026001

Jeremy Harper of Rocco's Coffee fame. NNL-160811-142026001

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The man who championed great coffee and community spirit has given his side of the story after he pulled the plug on his beloved Rocco’s.

There was an outpouring of dismay and anger when Rocco’s Love Coffee disappeared from the library foyer.

The argument went that Jeremy Harper – who had made his reputation in the town with his coffee cart before opening the cafe in September last year – had been kicked out in favour of a big chain ahead of the opening of the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

But in an exclusive interview with the Advertiser, Mr Harper confirmed an earlier statement from the council that it was his decision to go and he had been offered a contract to run the new-look cafe.

And he turned his fire on Rugby First, the BID company, for his decision to quit.

He said: “I left of my own accord. I have invested six plus years of my time, energy and money building a successful business in the town.

“The people of Rugby have been magnificent. It was the thought of investing another six years in a town that lacks creativity and a plan and that comes down to Rugby BID.”

He claimed Rugby First made safety and cleanliness a priority when those were roles the police and council respectively should carry out.

He added: “Their job is to promote the town and drive footfall to it and I don’t think they have a plan.”

He said the closure of viable businesses and then the closure of a string of charity shops highlighted a problem.

But though he said he didn’t have a plan B when he quit, he says he will be back, possibly with an online presence and then maybe with a pop-up shop for a couple of days a week if he can find the right option.

Rugby First managing director Aftab Gaffar, said: “We are obviously disappointed that ‘Love Coffee’ has closed but surprised by Jeremy’s comments. Perhaps it is worth reminding him that one of Rugby First’s main priorities identified by the majority of the businesses (as part of the Rugby First mandate) was to have a town centre that offers a clean and safe environment.”

He said the town centre had its own issues – such as the loss of Marks and Spencer to Elliott’s Field – and other pressures all towns faced. But he said working with the borough council and other partners there were a range of initiatives and events going on to increase footfall.

And he added the town centre: “ ...continues to attract new businesses including Pep & Co and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. More businesses are expected to open over the next few months.”