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Council faces scrutiny over future of popular café

11 Jul 2023 4 minute read
Melissa Boothman, Secret Garden Cafe. Photo Melissa Boothman

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

Cardiff Council’s decision to begin a procurement process over the future operator of a popular park cafe has been called in.

The council chose not to renew the lease of Secret Garden Cafe at Bute Park after a series of unsuccessful negotiations and issued the current business owner with a notice to quit.

A procurement process for the new management agreement and associated lease of the cafe was expected to commence on July 3.

However, this has now been put on hold following a request made by Liberal Democrat councillor, Cllr Rhys Taylor, for the council’s decision to be looked at by its economy and culture scrutiny committee.

He said: “The Secret Garden Café is a hugely popular local business that has contributed a huge amount to Bute Park over recent years.

“The petition of more than 13,000 names is testament to how positively people feel about the café and what the team have delivered.

“It’s only right that the council’s decision making around awarding a tender for the café is scrutinised by councillors in the public domain.

“Last year the council negotiated for months with the current tenant before deciding on a different route earlier this year.

“The option the council has chosen is a procurement process that takes months, and the council should be asked to prove that the route they’ve taken is in the best interests of public finances, and delivers what people want from the café.”

The café has raised thousands of pounds for Bute Park and invested more than £100,000 into its business during the five years it has been in operation.


Last month, the council said it was working with Friends of Bute Park to shape the specifications and the evaluation criteria of a tender document.

At the time, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for culture, parks and events, Cllr Jennifer Burke, said: “Not only will this mean that the tender we put out to market reflects the wishes of visitors to the park; it also means that we further reinforce the transparency of the process and introduces an added guarantee of impartiality when it comes to selecting the successful submission.

“The café has been part of the Bute Park community for over ten years and there’s no doubting the contribution it has made to the park in that time.

“The council is encouraging the current café operator, who has run the site for the past five years, to make a bid so that it can be considered alongside any other submissions from other potential operators.”

Pending the conclusion of the procurement exercise, the council offered the current operator an extension of the Tenancy at Will which allowed it to continue running the cafe through the transition to any new arrangements.

If the current operator puts in a successful bid, they will continue to run the café under the new arrangements, after that point.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “The decision to commence a procurement process for the Secret Garden Café has been called in.

“As a result, the publication of tender documents is currently on hold, pending the outcome of a meeting of the Economy and Culture Scrutiny Committee, due to take place on August 3.”

The procurement process for the new management agreement and associated lease was set to be openly advertised to the market through Sell 2 Wales and the procurement portal, Proactis.

Further details of the scrutiny meeting relating to Secret Garden Cafe will be made available closer to the time of the meeting.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

What do Cardiff Council care about people’s wishes, even from this distance we can see ‘not a lot’…

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
9 months ago

The cafe is successful, why interfere with that by introducing a procurement competition? Odd

9 months ago

If it ain’t bust, don’t fix it!

9 months ago

It’s a great cafe, lovely place to visit. And when I don’t stop, often really busy as I pass. Sometimes don’t shoot your foot.

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