New menu on the cards as The Chalkboard looks ahead to 'positive' times

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Hannah Spence and Andy Jones from the Chalkboard

A week before Christmas, the café along with other community groups housed at the theatre venue were met with devastating news, after Peterborough City Council (PCC) announced that they would be closing the Key Theatre as part of plans to manage the council’s dire financial situation.    

Following the announcement, communities across the city came out in support of the theatre and the café, with a petition calling for it to be saved receiving over 2,000 signatures. 

And five months on, things are looking ‘very positive’ for The Chalkboard after a new ‘lease’ of life, with new operators being announced in the form of Selladoor for the next five years, and confirmation from PCC that The Chalkboard restaurant and the Key Youth Theatre will both remain on site for that time.

Peterborough Matters spent a day at the café last week and caught up with Hannah Spence and Andy Jones to find out how things have been. 

They said: “We are really happy; we are proud of where we are, but it has been a hard graft – such hard work. First there was Covid, and then the uncertainty with the theatre – so it has been quite a challenging time for us. But things are looking on the up. 

"We are having positive conversations with Selladoor – we are looking at pre-theatre menus and how we can work with them, so we are definitely looking to stay. 

“We can think about the future now which we couldn’t a few months ago. We are also looking at an extension of opening hours on a Saturday. 

"People really got behind the theatre and also us – so we are grateful. 

We take a bit of pride in finding out about our customers, we have some really nice, friendly staff and service. 

“Staffing is an issue – we are finding it hard to recruit more staff.” 

Your thoughts on the upcoming developments including the nearby Hilton Hotel and the university? 

“It’s great – it would have been nice to see more restaurants and bars going in there across from us in front of the water, but there’s still businesses going in. 

“But the developments on the embankment and the upcoming projects are great – we need more investments in the city, more businesses. 

“We know some people are not too keen on losing the green space. They said during Covid, people can go for picnics and so on on the Embankment – but that wasn’t the reality. It’s pretty much derelict and not used a lot of times. So it would be good to see it being put in use.” 

So what’s next for The Chalkboard? 

“We are really happy with how things are going for us. We are number one on Tripadvisor at the minute.

“We are hosting our own events on weekdays and Friday nights – comedy nights, bingo nights. We are launching Chalkboard Fridays soon. Our existing events are already very popular, they are always sold out which is great. We think it's a good place to be for a social outing, good food, staff is lovely so lots of positives for customers.

“By June 1 we will have a new updated menu in time of the Jubilee celebrations – new cocktails among other things.

"Things have been tough, especially for the independents and now stock is going up, wages are going up, it’s tough but we are staying positive and looking forward to what’s in store.  

“We haven't actually had a full year that we have been open and we are coming up to three years of being in business. 

“But we have a lot to be thankful for. After challenging times, things are finally looking on the up and we are excited.”