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At last, the not-a-Starbucks library café opens

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Dalston Library Cafe Lon E8 15 Mar 2012

Coffee, cake, books and balloons: new café

THE CONTROVERSIAL new café and coffee bar at the £4.8 million CLR James Dalston Library opened this week.

The venue does not shout Starbucks, although it is a franchise of the world-conquering US firm and openly serves its coffee and tea.

Hackney council decided last year to seek a local business to run the café under the aegis of a big-name catering company.

The decision was a mistake, given the amount of expertise in the local coffee scene as, for example, Ian Burgess, of Climpson and Sons, near London Fields, explained.

He told Loving Dalston: “There are so many small independent and quality coffee operators around these parts. The only reason I can think of is that Hackney wants some kind of guarantee on its rent being paid.”

The councillors and officers presumably saw Starbucks as pretty damn cool, putting into question their grasp of the hipster movement that has made the big-name coffee chains wary of opening in the district. At least the lease didn’t go to Nando’s.

The council’s spill of the coffee beans led local blogs to buzz with rumours that the library café would be a full-on Starbucks. Online derision broke out, until Loving Dalston gave local businessman Gurkan Bozdere a chance to answer the criticism. He said the only Starbucks connection would be the hot drinks it sold.

The café, like the library, in the uninspired Barratt building facing Dalston Square, is months late in opening. Unlike the library, which the council has been busy hyping since its opening in January 2012, many months after the first announced date, the council has not trumpeted the latest opening.

Bozdere has named his new venture the “Dalston Library Café”. He told Loving Dalston that Belle Epoque, a patisserie at Newington Green, was supplying the food.

Already one local entrepreneur has given Dalston Library Café the thumbs-up. Kollier Din-Bangura, of To The Jungle, 16 Dalston Lane E8 3AZ, said: “The café looks comfortable and well-designed and has clearly had a lot of money spent on it.”

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Readers Comments (15)

  1. Dutchess says:

    Disappointed there is a Starbucks in much-loved Dalston – but there has been a McDonald’s for years (which I have never felt the need to visit) and we can voice our opinions with our feet. I certainly won’t be buying my coffee there… not when Ridley’s has just opened up and brings a smile to my mornings… buy independent, support local. :)

    Fine sentiments, and I too have never bothered to visit the local McDonald’s. But I should add that the owner of the Starbucks franchise at CLR James Dalston Library is a local, having been born and raised in the area. – Ed.

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  2. bob says:

    By the way, I think it is hilarious that a Starbucks advertisment is on this site.

    Ho-ho: the kind of thing I love spotting in newspapers, even in the paper that used to employ me (aaah, those well-paid times). Loving Dalston is symbolically achieving its aim of becoming an online newspaper. I add that I have tried to keep my Starbuck views out of my coverage of this issue. – Ed.

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  3. bob says:

    I agree, Benjamin, when I visited the library café was a very mixed clientele. By contrast Cafe Oto around the corner is, as you say, full of white under-35s wearing horn-rimmed specs (still) and glued to their Macbooks. Yes, it is independent, but it has absolutely zero atmosphere in there.

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  4. Benjamin says:

    I stopped by recently and liked it. As someone who enjoys a good Hackney café-crawl, something stood out immediately – there was a very varied mix of customers. Many new independent cafés in Hackney seem to be frequented almost exclusively by apparently affluent white under-35s, whereas here there were all ages and ethnicities… just like Hackney.

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  5. Andrew Boff says:

    @marc, Climpsons did not bid for the café because Hackney [council] banned small businesses from bidding for this and other catering contracts. It then hangs banners from the lamposts saying shop local. Just wish they’d follow their own advice.

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  6. bob says:

    Maybe you should just be grateful that, given the current climate, we have a fantastic new library in Dalston.
    What are you hoping to achieve by being so petty? There is a café on the premises – of course they are going to advertise it.
    If you do not like it there are three others less than a minute away.

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  7. Bob says:

    I regularly study at the Dalston library and take offence at the Starbucks tabletop advertisement cards on the desks of the library itself. I have taken it upon myself to dispose of these cards whenever I see them – straight into the trash. Whatever happened to libraries as a non-commercial public space?!

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  8. Benjamin says:

    “Aston – bit paranoid, are you?”
    Or maybe he’s just confusing this website with one of a similar name.

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  9. simon says:

    Was at the library this weekend

    Starbucks logo on the sign outside the café

    Starbucks logo on the signs inside the café

    Nothing to suggest it is anything other than a Starbucks

    Hackney has some fantastic independent cafés
    serving amazing coffee

    This isn’t one of them and Starbucks Maccoffee sucks

    Nothing against the people living in Dalston Square and don’t see any criticism of them anywhere on this website, so red herring, Aston – bit paranoid, are you?

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  10. Aston says:

    Yes, I fully agree with the comments above. It would be a good idea for the editor to have a talk to the residents of Dalston Square. He might find that they are nice young people who actually contribute to Dalston, and genuinely want to be a part of Dalston – like the young entrepreneur behind the café.
    Dear David, you may not like the buildings of DSQ, but writing such pieces over and over again only creates a negative vibe. Why not make the best of it and create some unity for a change?

    I am slightly puzzled about the charge that I write negatively about “DSQ” again and again but clearly that is the impression you have gained. It’s great that you say the residents contribute to London E8, and are not the uninvolved buy-to-let opportunists, as you are characterised on at least one local blog. I am sure most Dalstoners welcome you. – Ed.

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  11. bob says:

    You are right, Steve. Unfortunately this site cannot get over it. It longs for a return to the days when Dalston was a dirty, rundown, violent dump, when Hackney was known locally as Crackney, when you had to go to nearby Islington or Stoke Newington for a night out.
    Every change is viewed with suspicion and hate. But nothing brings out the negativity of this website so much as Dalston Square. A massive, fantastic, new library on three floors, yet all they can go about is the same old tedious story about what coffee it will be selling, never mind that other libaries all over the country are closing!
    At long last Dalston is changing, and for the better. God knows it is about time. Get over it and move on.

    Your description of old Dalston/Hackney well evokes the unpleasant place it used to be. But if you think this site opposes all change, I reply that this site applauds the new businesses and social trends in the borough, brought about mostly by a creative young generation as well as by Hackney council. The craic is great. – Ed.

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  12. Steve says:

    You peddle the same old inaccurate arguments at the start of this piece – then contradict yourself with the facts… A local businessman IS running the cafe. He just happens to be serving Starbucks coffee. Get over it. (PS, that’s not what a franchise is.)

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  13. marc says:

    Did Climpson and Sons bid for the café? Or are they just giving us the benefit of their opinion about who they think should be the tenant?
    And were Hackney “hyping” the building. Or were they simply promoting the fact that they have managed to open a good quality venue to replace the miserable, failing bunker that was the old Dalston library?
    Hackney council merits lots of criticism, but I can’t see how opening a new library when most councils are closing them doesn’t deserve some positive feedback. [The Climpson and Sons boss, responding to my request for a business opinion, made a good contribution to a vigorous local debate. I was trying to draw attention to Hackney council’s eagerness to gush about the library (which this site was the first to visit and to praise) as a way of glossing over the deadline failures and other unfortunate aspects. The council spent generously on various opening events, at which I was a joyous – tipsy, even – participant. – Ed.]

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    • marc says:

      Editor, Perhaps you should expand on the reasons that the library opened late. My understanding is that they had problems with he temperature systems for the archive. It’s not unusual for new-build projects to open later than planed. You might want to look at the history of the British Library building.
      Re the café. So we are not clear whether anybody else bid to run the business. And if Climpson and Sons is so big on Dalston, why does it npt open in there. Climpson could take one of the units in the new square.

      There have been temperature problems but the reason for the delay of more than a year was more basic, to do with bureaucracy and will. I know of the BL project delays and rising costs. I love to use that library but at its opening some absurd and user-unfriendly ideas were evident.
      C and W was commenting on a specific opportunity, a top site that probably should have been more widely offered. I am assured there was more than one bidder. – Ed.

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