‘Hard to accept’: Community rallies around reservoir café at risk of closure

Marco Pita (second row, centre, in light blue) with café supporters. Photograph: Jody Lindscott

Hackney residents have banded together in an effort to save a family-run business in Woodberry Down from closure.

A petition to rescue Hackney’s West Reservoir Café has been launched as a response to the closure notice that the business received last month.

Marco Pita, 53, has owned the restaurant since 2004, with the aim to “serve the community” with “delicious Portuguese dishes and other café favourites”.

After nearly 20 years, Pita was handed a six-month eviction notice from Better Leisure.

“I joked, ‘What is this, a Christmas card?’ But it was my notice,” he said.

The café has had a contract with Better since they took over the reservoir as a swimming space, after the area increased in popularity during the pandemic.

Following its eviction notice, the community support has rallied around the café. The petition had been signed more than 1,300 people at time of publication.

Pita said: “We are privileged to have what we have here, to serve the community.

“I don’t want compensation; I’ve put 20 years of my life in that place. I just want to carry on the business, especially now that it’s booming.”

He said the plan is to close his café and open a spot next door that will serve coffee and snacks.

Better Leisure was approached but did not comment.

Pita’s pastéis de nata. Photograph: Eleanor Church

A Hackney Council spokesperson said the café is not being shut down, but is moving to another location on the site: “The existing operator was informed a year ago that the new café would be subject to a new tender process.

“Better Leisure has been in ongoing dialogue with the operator, and they will have the opportunity to apply to run the new café.”

Matt Myatt, 55, from Tottenham, is a supporter of the petition and a “member of the swimming community”.

He refers to Pita and his family as the inner core of the community, and disapproves of the eviction notice and the proposed plans: “To me, that’s an insult. To have a chance to pitch, to be offered a spot 100 yards from the café they are closing. It’s ridiculously rude.”

He claimed the plans would cause Pita to “double his charges to make it work”, describing the situation as an “opportunist” response to the café’s popularity.

Another local pushing the petition, Corinne Drewery, 64, said: “My involvement with the petition is to help spread the word.

“Marco and his family take pride in their cooking.”

Corinne has lived in Hackney for 36 years and is passionate about saving the café: “These kinds of places are fast diminishing. It would be a great loss.”

“It’s too hard to accept,” another swimmer said, describing the situation as “unbearable”.

Pita said he has not yet contacted the council about the situation and is awaiting Better’s response.

“All the customers are a great support,” he added. “I’m really lucky.”

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “The proposals were informed by a full consultation process with users of the centre and local residents.

“They are aimed at encouraging more people to use and enjoy West Reservoir.”

The petition to save the West Reservoir Café can be found here.