Sunday, 8 May 2011

Diary Excerpt–The Birth and Death of the Old Coach House Tea Rooms

August 2010 – January 2011

August 2010
27th August 2010 – Business in Focus Advice
“Today I met with Jane Way at her offices in Cardiff Bay. Amongst several of the things that we discussed were how to go about finding the perfect venue for my new business. I have quite a specific idea in my head for what sort of shop I want for my tea room, this is based on good places I have been to in the past and also what shops I think are in Cardiff in areas that I think will work. 
For my first tea room and indeed my first business, I have decided to rent a property to minimise the risk involved and also keep my start up costs down. I figure that a good street facing unit on a busy shopping street area is the way to go. With this in mind I am targeting Wellfield Road, Albany Road, Roath, Pontcanna, Penarth, Whitchurch Village, Llandaff Village, Cyn Coed and Cardiff City Centre to start with. 
I will need A3 planning consent to operate my tea room, however getting this kind of planning consent where it does not already exist is really tough. It turns out that in the recent past Cardiff has been very free with handing out A3 consent, so takeaway outlets and restaurants have popped up all over the city. As a result Cardiff has now developed the opposite attitude and won’t hand out A3 easily. Scarily Jane also pointed out that it could take over a year to find a venue, she has had some clients where it has taken several years to find the right place…”
Tuesday 31st August – First Impressions of a Seemingly Expensive Property
“There are so few commercial properties listed on the internet in Cardiff that aren’t huge warehouses. It is really frustrating especially as it is now so easy to find residential properties online through third parties. I am stuck with and neither of which have very much choice for my narrowed down search. From looking around so far properties of the size and in areas that I like range from £10,000 to £50,000 per annum.  I have budgeted in the region of £15-£20,000.
Mike has seen a property near Sophia Gardens which is pretty close to Cardiff City, however it is over my rent threshold and is one of the first properties i have found.”

September 2010
Thursday 9th September – The Drive Around
“I have spent hours during the past fortnight driving around areas of Cardiff and posting my contact details through the doors of empty shop units. So far nothing! The venues that are suitable are too expensive. I have called every estate agent and given them a full brief to help me find my property. From this initial research I can see that I should take a closer look at the The Old Coach House which I first spotted a few weeks back. With this in minds today I picked up the phone and introduced myself to Ross from Jeffrey Ross. After a short conversation it became clear that the Coach House is still available and Ross would happily send me the brief.”
Friday 10th September – Jeffrey Ross
“I know I have to be cautious, but I LOVE the Old Coach House, Sophia Close, Cardiff.
Old Coach House - Map

I have put the venue details here, Old Coach House Specifications.  At first I thought this venue was expensive but actually there is a great square footage here. I have spoken to Ross this morning and have my first proper site visit on Monday with the owner, Spencer. I must admit that I am very excited.”
Monday 13th September – The Old Coach House Site Visit
“This is an unbelievable property and I am going to have to move quickly on this. Incredibly another tea room business is interested and have been in conversation with Jeffrey Ross for the past 8 weeks. I am sitting down tonight to run the forecasts to work out what sales revenue I can achieve from the covers at the Coach House. Then I can work out what a fair bid will be.
The Coach House is currently derelict so the owner has drawn up the following plans which he will spend his own cash on to realise for the successful tenant”
Wednesday 15th September – The Old Coach House Bid Submission
“This is a fantastic venue, it is located in Pontcanna which is an affluent residential area in the heart of the city of Cardiff. The Coach House overlooks Sophia Gardens and backs on to the park, so there is some scope for outdoor seating in the park itself!. About fifty yards from the Coach House is the main coach parking for Cardiff City for all tourist groups. Over the road is the Welsh Institute of Sport which attracts thousands of visitors per month, along with the new SWALEC Cricket Stadium which again is a huge draw for crowds to Cardiff.
Today I sat outside the Coach House for most of the day people watching. There is a great mix of business people cutting through the park to the city centre and working in the surrounding offices on Cathedral Road. There were surprisingly more people walking by than I would have expected for a Wednesday morning but Sophia Close appears to be a real favourite cut through.”
013The OCH
Thursday 23rd September – The Old Coach House Re-submission
“Grrrr! The other tea room business has come back today with a better bid than me. Ross wants me to come back with my best and final bid. I have decided to submit part of my Business Plan along with the bid to give Spencer a taste of what I will do with the Old Coach House. I have sent everything over to them and hope to hear back at the earliest by the start of next week.  This waiting is rubbish, i keep thinking I should just up my bid and agree to pay more rent.”
Wednesday 29th September – The Old Coach House Bid result
“Today is my last working week with my previous employer so the result of whether I will be the successful occupier of the Old Coach House seems more crucial than ever.
At 09:34am today I received this email;
Hi David,
My apologies for the delay in my reply, I think I did mention that I am in Portugal this week. I have however managed to speak with Spencer re: the 2 offers we have received. They are both very similar and that has also caused a delay in this response.
Based on your business plan and timescale Spencer would prefer Victoria Rooms to take the lease, if you are prepared to offer £*** with the 1st six months being half rent. The rent deposit would be the same. Spencer would like to get legals instructed ASAP so I would be grateful if you could reply at your earliest convenience.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sent from - JeffreyRoss Estate Agents
WOOHOO I cannot believe how fortunate we are to have the Coach House, it is ideal for my tea room needs and Spencer is keen to tweak the construction plans to fit in with my requirements. I have contacted my Solicitor Darren and asked him to get on with the legal side. Meanwhile I am off to celebrate that I do not have to put my life on hold anymore in property searching hell!”

October 2010
Monday 4th October – Farewell Victoria Rooms
“In creating my Business Plan I came up with a brand ‘The Victoria Rooms’ and have used this to focus planning. Today I decided to bid farewell to that brand. I met Jane today at a competitor tea room in Cardiff, Waterloo Gardens. We had a good loose leaf tea and I introduced Jane to the Old Coach House. As you may expect Jane had many questions about the venue and so we decided to take a trip to Sophia Close and take a look around.  Spencer has given me a key to the venue now that I am going to be his tenant.
Jane loves the Coach House! It is such a relief when a professional like Jane gets excited to see a venue. Jane knows my business as well as I do so to get her confidence in this venue has given me a great boost! However her first question for me was why not call it the Old Coach House Tea Rooms. She is right and so I lay to rest the Victoria Rooms brand.
In practical terms we should be in and trading by Spring 2011. Today I wrote a full procurement document including all of the fit out items, furnishings and fixtures. Having this long lead in time is such a relief meaning I can plan in advance.”
Wednesday 20th October – The Solicitor Site Visit
“Today I met with Spencer on-site at the Old Coach House to draw up the construction schedule for the work to be completed on the building. My solicitor Darren joined us to get a feel for the property and help him draw up the legals. Spencer is going to give me a full schedule next week and has agreed to start the initial clearing work of the debris inside the building during the first week of November. The full work will take 12 to 16 weeks so we will be opening in Spring 2011 probably the first week in April.
It is brilliant to have such a close relationship with the owner of the property that we are going to rent. I will be responsible for installing the floor throughout the lighting throughout and the kitchen.”

November 2010
Tuesday 9th November – Clearing Work?
“Spencer has not come back to me with his schedule of works as yet. I have started chasing him today, particularly as no skip has arrived to start clearing the site. It is 10 weeks since I found this venue now and I still haven't signed anything as yet. Speaking to Darren he has also had real trouble getting hold of Spencer’s solicitors to confirm the legals.”
Thursday 25th November – What is Wrong with the Old Coach House
“I have not heard anything from Spencer in weeks… until today. Having left 3 voicemails per week since the start of the month, I finally forced a meeting with Spencer by calling Ross today telling him I have to know what is happening. Something is clearly wrong, I meet Spencer next Wednesday.”

December 2010
Wednesday 1st December – Meeting Spencer
“Spencer has the wrong mortgage. Believe it or not when he bought the Coach House in 2007 he was going to turn it into apartments. The bottom of the property market fell out and so he decided to let the Coach House and went after A3 planning consent. So in November when he went to his bank to borrow against his mortgage in order to convert the Coach House he realised that his mortgage is a residential one. Banking has changed in the past few years and now it turns out that banks do not want to lend on commercial mortgages.
Thankfully all is not lost, if Spencer and I can come up with a plan then we can save this project although clearly my spring deadline is looking highly unlikely. I sat down today to go through my accounts with a view to a.) purchasing the Coach House myself or b.) paying the rent upfront for the first year. Either way there is clearly much more to discuss with Spencer and our solicitors”

January 2011
Wednesday 19th January – The Final Nail
“I never heard back from Spencer. Today I managed to get Ross to return my call after calling him 3 times per week since the New Year. Ross confirmed that without a miracle my chances of being the tenant for the Old Coach House are now over. I am left with a Solicitors bill in the hundreds and four months worth of work on a property for nothing.
Jane warned me that this could happen with any venue. I will continue with my dream so will keep on searching. I currently have nowhere else in mind so it really is back to the drawing board, exactly where I was in August 2010. I have to say I doubt that I will find anywhere to match the Coach House.”

March 2011
“What a horrible start to 2011! However I am back on the trail with finding a venue and now have three likely places in mind. Without the property nothing else can happen, with the hard work put into the Coach House I am now in a unique position; I have everything to run a tea room just no place to put it in…yet. Watch this space for an update…”

1 comment:

  1. Writing this post was by far and away the hardest one I have had to write to date. I do not envy any of you out there property searching.


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