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Antwerp cafe becomes so popular owners seek to give it up

Thursday, 01 August 2019

A cafe in the tiny town of Lillo near Antwerp has become so popular with visitors that the owners have decided to seek someone younger to take over. © Wikimedia
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A cafe in the tiny town of Lillo near Antwerp has become so popular with visitors that the owners have decided to seek someone younger to take over running it, because such a workload was never their intention.

Mil Boriau and his wife Ria took over the cafe In de 7 saeligheden (roughly, Of the seven salvations) two years ago, intending it to provide them with a peaceful run-up to their retirement. Lillo is a former garrison dating back to the war against the Spanish, when it guarded the approaches on the River Scheldt to the city of Antwerp. Most of the town disappeared with the extension of the port of Antwerp, leaving only one small square (photo) and a windmill known as the Unicorn. Total resident population: 40 people.

The perfect paradise for a couple who had spent a life in the bustle of the hospitality business. Until, that is, the city of Antwerp decided from July to add two stops to the waterbus ferry route between the city centre and Hemiksem, one of them being Lillo. And while the regular ferry service is proposed as an alternative commuting option, nobody ever has any reason to go to Lillo other than leisure. The town is now over-run by tourists.

At 1230,” Mil told local TV station ATV, “20 to 30 people come in, and they all want to eat. At one o’clock 30 more, and at half-past one another 30. And here in this cafe we just can’t cope. We’re just a bit too old for that.”

The plan had been to take over the cafe for five years until Ria retired, when Mil would do the same. “It’s a quiet cafe,” he said, before correcting himself. “It was a quiet cafe.”

For the time being the cafe has taken on some students for the summer, but the final plan can be read from a notice in the window: Cafe over te nemen – cafe seeks new owner.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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