On Monday May 17th Ric Kemp, owner of The People’s Meeple café in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, will be welcoming diners back inside his doors for the first time in over 6 months.
As well as being a popular spot with Huddersfield pensioners, The People’s Meeple is also host to a thriving community of board gamers, who make the most of the People’s Meeple’s library of 450 games. Some gamers will mark the occasion with a game of Pandemic, a cooperative board game where players work together to defeat deadly diseases.
In October 2019 Ric Kemp quit his steady managerial job to pursue his dream of running a board game café. He thought he knew the rules of the game he was getting into. But the People’s Meeple opened on 6th December 2019, just 6 weeks before the first UK case of Covid-19…
Ric said, “When I opened The People’s Meeple, I thought I’d prepared for the unexpected. I was ready for a slow start or a fast start. I had a good cash buffer, I had a good team of staff. We were just beginning to build momentum, seeing sales growth in January and February 2020. Then Covid-19 and the first closure happened. We were shell shocked. It was like the rug being pulled out from under us. We didn’t know what was going to happen, we thought we might be able to re-open in 8 weeks. It turned out to be 3 months. “
“The following 12 months was an emotional rollercoaster- opening again in June, Eat out to Help Out, closing again in October, supporting my staff and trying to keep everyone safe. It’s felt at times like hospitality has been portrayed as the villain of the piece- we’ve had harsher restrictions than most other areas of business and work. With all the stopping and starting I’ve lost good staff who understandably had to make other plans. It’s been a tough year. You expect hiccups in your first year or two as a business, but this is something else. We’ve diversified a bit, selling boardgames online and running some online raffles but it hasn’t come close to filling the gap in our food and drink takings.”
“The support from our customers has been great, and the help from Kirklees Council with accessing grants and advice has been invaluable. Since April 2021 we’ve been able to offer outdoor dining, which has been lovely, but at the mercy of the weather. If it’s raining, sales halve.”
“We’ve got fingers and everything else crossed that May 17th is us re-opening for good. We’ve taken half our tables out so we can space people out safely and we’ve got a pop-up banner with Covid safety guidelines and a physical barrier so people scan in with the app if they come inside. Hopefully we get some stability and the business gets back on something like a normal sales growth curve and I can start planning more than a few weeks ahead. I want The Peoples Meeple to be a great space for all the community. We’ve been building links with lots of groups focussed on wellbeing and tackling social isolation but to do that we need to stay open!“
Yolanda Kenyon, a regular customer said, “The Peoples Meeple was the last place we visited before the March 2020 lockdown, the first place we visited after and it will be the first place we go indoors now. Such a great day out for the family and a fab alternative night out with friends. Also the best milkshakes and pizzas ever!”
The People’s Meeple are taking bookings through their Facebook page and their website www.thepeoplesmeeple.com