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Overworked cafe owners in Lillo have found a buyer

The village of Lillio at the water's edge, surrounded by the installations of the Port of Antwerp

A couple who took over a cafe in the sleepy town of Lillo near Antwerp only to find they had more customers than they could cope with have managed to find a buyer to take over the business.

As we reported earlier this month, the cafe In de 7 saeligheden (roughly, Of the seven salvations) had become a burden on its owners, Mil Boriau and his wife Ria Letens. The couple, after a lifetime working in the hospitality industry, had taken over the cafe two years ago to keep them going until Ria’s retirement when they would both take their pensions.

Lillo was once a garrison town for troops guarding approaches to Antwerp harbour. It now consists of one village square and has a total of 33 registered residents. Boriau and Letens expected they would be able to provide drinks and meals to a steady but slight stream of tourists of the port area.

Instead, the city of Antwerp added a new route to its waterbus, bringing visitors directly to Lillo, and presenting the cafe with more clientele than its owners had ever expected or hoped for.

At 12:30,” 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.”

As the news of the cafe with too many customers made the rounds of the mainly Flemish media, about 40 candidates for the takeover turned up with offers, but the deal was made by chance.

One evening I was sitting on the terrace with my colleague from ‘t Pleintje. An older couple spoke to me to tell me they were interested. The lady had been several times to have a look at the place,” Boriau told De Standaard. He named his price, and the deal was done that same evening.

On Wednesday 28 October I’ll pour my last pintje,” he said. “Then my successors will take over. The Antwerp couple says they want to change little or nothing of the way things are. They’re even taking over the menu as-is.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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