Mumbai: Cafe run by street kids shutters due to unpaid loans
Run entirely by street children, Bombay to Barcelona Library Cafe in Marol was the embodiment of Amin Sheikh's own childhood struggles
When Amin Sheikh opened the Bombay to Barcelona Library Café in 2016, the idea wasn't just to serve food. It was to become the backbone of a community. Run entirely by street children, the unique restaurant in Marol was the embodiment of Sheikh's own childhood struggles.
While it provided employment to a handful of teenagers, it also helped cater to their daily needs, such as living and education costs. Over the years, it enabled Sheikh to participate in other charitable programmes, like the afternoon tradition of offering hot chocolate and cookies to home-bound kids from a nearby government school.
"It took me nine years to build this cafe, and 10 minutes to rip it apart," said Sheikh, who had himself spent a large part of his childhood on Mumbai's streets. On Monday, around 3 pm, several recovery officers and bank officials barged into the café with a notice that claimed that property owners Andrade Maxiy Simone and Manjeet Singh Saini owed the Sahebrao Deshmukh Co-operative Bank Rs 38.25 lakh in loans.
"Four days ago, we had signed another agreement extending the lease by three years. Manjeet came in the morning to ask if people from the bank had come. He looked really troubled and I got the feeling that something was wrong. Then, in the afternoon, 30 to 40 people came from the bank, along with cops, and sealed the café," Sheikh said.
"I tried to tell them that there was a lot of food inside, but they only gave us 10 minutes to remove whatever we could. There is food worth Rs 30,000 in there that's all going to go to waste," he lamented. "I understand it's their right [to evict] if our landlord hasn't paid up, but we paid all our bills, so it's a little unfair on us too," he added.
Sheikh and his team are scheduled to meet the bank officials today in the hope of resolving the issue amicably. "I understand that our landlords are going through a difficult time, too, so legal recourse is not our first choice. However, if we are not left with other options, we will have to eventually consider it," he said.
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