Harborough business stalwart wins his fight to keep his beloved café at Foxton Locks

Over 2,100 people signed a petition backing him after the Canal & River Trust refused to renew his lease in October

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 5:24 pm
Gary Hives and Kelly Foster of Top Lock Coffee Shop with Neil O'Brien MP, during his fight to save his cafe. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

A Market Harborough business stalwart is celebrating winning his fight to keep his beloved café at Foxton Locks.

Gary Hives, 65, launched a desperate campaign to hang on to his much-loved Top Lock Coffee Stop after being told he’d have to leave by Canal & River Trust (CRT) chiefs earlier this year.

Over 2,100 people signed a petition backing him after the Trust, which owns the building at the world-famous locks, refused to renew his lease in October.

But Gary is now set to stay on for at least another two years at Harborough’s historic attraction as the CRT said they are “looking forward to working” with him until 2023.

“This is brilliant news. Our café and the locks are my life – as well as my family’s,” ecstatic Gary told the Harborough Mail today.

The Trust have offered me a two-year extension to our lease and I’m happy with that.

“It’s a massive relief after such a stressful time.

“We are going to lose one of our rooms where people could sit inside if it was bad weather.

“But we’ve agreed a price for the rent – and that’s acceptable to both them and me.

“I’m happy with the terms.

“I’m just waiting to sign the actual new contract now and put pen to paper.

“But they are not going to kick us out as we feared just a few months ago and that means so much to all of us,” said Gary, who’s ran the popular café for 15 years.

“My current lease ends on Monday October 4.

“But it’s not unusual for me over our years here to sign a new lease after the previous one has expired.

“I’m just so pleased to be on the verge of putting this to bed now and guaranteeing our future here at the one and only Foxton Locks.

“It was amazing that thousands of people signed the petition supporting us when this blew up in the first place.

“We are deeply humbled by the massive level of support from across Harborough,” said Gary, who was also backed by Harborough MP Neil O’Brien.

“And we’d like to say a huge thank you to every person who got behind us, we really appreciate it.”

Confirming the pivotal step forward, a Canal & River Trust spokesman told the Mail: “We’re really pleased to have agreed a lease extension with Gary and are looking forward to working together to make Foxton even more enjoyable for everyone that visits.”

Trouble erupted back in the spring when the Trust said Gary would have to go because they aimed to take over his flourishing café at nationally-renowned Foxton Locks themselves.

But CRT bosses went back to the drawing board and pulled off a dramatic U-turn after the Mail broke the story in March.

Gary has set his heart on passing on the Top Lock Coffee Stop to his equally-committed daughter Kelly Foster, 41.

“I have put my heart and soul into running this café – it’s in my blood.

“I’ve spent the last 40-plus years of my life beside this canal.

“So this is just fantastic news,” said Gary in March.

“I have been overwhelmed by the support I have had from people all over Market Harborough and throughout the area.

“This will mean so much to my daughter Kelly if we can seal this deal now,” added Gary at the time.

“I’ve always wanted to hand on the Top Lock Coffee Stop to Kelly and her daughter Hayley, 17.

“We have successfully renewed four leases – ranging from 18 months to five years – here since we started out.

“Kelly has rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in working alongside me and my wife over all the years we’ve been here.

“To make this even more emotional, Kelly, who’s a single parent, was battling triple-negative breast cancer all last year.

“So on top of the Covid pandemic and all the lockdowns, she was having surgeries and chemotherapy to treat this terrible illness,” said Gary.

“She’s all clear now and doing fine thank goodness so all being well it’s full steam ahead.”