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Popular Belfast cafe Root & Branch that roasted its own coffee won't be reopening

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Root & Branch cafe on the Ormeau road in Belfast

Root & Branch cafe on the Ormeau road in Belfast

Root & Branch cafe on the Ormeau road in Belfast

The owner of a popular cafe in south Belfast has said he will not be reopening following lockdown after a decision to "streamline life and business".

Root & Branch, which opened four years ago, served coffee from its own roastery.

It first operated from a small premises on Jameson Street before expanding out onto the main Ormeau Road.

It was named top coffee shop in Northern Ireland by the Irish Times and, along with other operators like Kaffe-O, formed a new wave of upmarket coffee shops catering for the more choosy coffee drinker.

Owners Simon Johnson and Ben Craig later opened a branch at Ormeau Baths, a co-working space on Ormeau Avenue close to the city centre.

But now Mr Johnson has told customers he wants to close the Ormeau Road branch to focus on the roastery, after a period of reflection in lockdown.

In a Facebook post, he wrote: "Lockdown didn't afford me much time to reflect but it did help me realise that I have a finite amount of time.

"As a dad to two young kids and with a wife who has her own demanding career, running a business is a challenge.

"Granted, things are slowly returning to some degree of normality, but the 'new norm' has to look different for me and for Root and Branch."

He said his desire to work in coffee had been motivated by an interest in sourcing, buying and roasting green coffee. "As R&B has grown, my energies and focus have also been required in other areas. In closing our Ormeau Road cafe, I want to streamline life and the business.

"I am sad to be leaving our little side-street birthplace and breaking up the fantastic team we have. Like many of you, I've rich memories of great conversations over coffee with locals and visitors, baristas and roasters, musicians and whoever else graced our little roastery.

"I'm quite sure it'll be bustling with life again soon and that its new resident will continue to make sure our coffee is lighting up that lovely little corner of the Ormeau Road."

However, it's not clear whether a new tenant has been found.

Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne said he recognised the dilemma facing someone with a specialism in production, such as a coffee roastery, who then moves into hospitality.

"Production is much more sociable when it comes to working hours. You go into a warehouse or factory at a given time and finish at a given time.

"But moving into hospitality is a different game and everybody knows the impact that has on family life, because of the crazy hours people have to live."

On Facebook, customers said they were disappointed but applauded Mr Johnson's decision to focus on family. One wrote: "You've done your bit and created something special but there is nothing more important nor more fulfilling than your family.

"Life is fluid and ever changing, it's great to see someone actually flow with life rather than follow a fixed route. The future is looking a bit brighter this morning, thank you. It will be interesting to see what you learn from your kids, they're great teachers."

Belfast Telegraph