CHANGES are afoot for a council-run café which has been operating at a loss for a number of years.

Eighteen71, housed within the Guildhall, was opened in 2010 and in recent times it has seen a fall in customers and drop in profits.

Now in a bid to balance the budget the authority has now decided to cut ties with the operation and lease the premises to an external company.

Civic chiefs have approved spending £130,000 to convert the space into a self-contained unit, with six providers said to be interested.

The names of the businesses who have shown interest have not been made public.

Speaking during a cabinet meeting, Cllr Kelsie Learney, member for housing and asset management, has said that the Guildhall has been operating at a loss for a “considerable period of time and the café operations form a considerable part of that loss”.

She continued: “It has become clear that even just closing the café would create a considerable saving, but clearly leaving a dead space in such a prominent location would not be a very sensible decision or good for the city. However, by separating out the café unit from the Guildhall we have the opportunity to let it out separately with the cost of those renovations being recovered relatively quickly.

“Having tested the market there is a strong interest in taking over the unit in particular from local providers.

“To do so will allow the café operation to be entirely divorced from the Guildhall itself with no need to keep the whole building open to simply access the toilets from the café.”

However, the closure will put three jobs at risk, with the roles being put up for redundancy when the café ceases trading on April 1.

As part of the plan council bosses said it will work with organisations who use the unit as a meeting space.

Cllr Learney said: “We are aware that a number of groups operate informally out of the café using it as a social meeting space and we are looking at how we can help those groups do the same thing somewhere else.”

And Cllr Steve Miller, Conservative member, added: “We’ve tried various times to make it more efficient and not lose so much money, unfortunately they failed so fully support this.

“Let’s get on and get it done.”

The long term operation of the Guildhall will be looked into at a later stage in attempt to look at how the council can make money from the historic building.

Eighteen71 is in a prominent location in the summer with the influx of visitors being dropped off by coaches on The Broadway. But for a large part of the year it is away from the central hub of the city centre further along the High Street.