THE North-East’s first comic book café is closing this week – but has vowed to try and continue to support the community it has built up.

Dark Matter Cafe, in Durham, closes on Sunday.

Owners Dan Pye and Lindsey Brown, who opened the Crossgate cafe in 2013, said they had been sent countless messages and hand-written letters since making the announcement.

Mr Pye said: “We always wanted to create an environment and space where everyone would feel welcome and there was a strong emphasis on hard-to-reach audiences. That’s what we set out to do but we didn’t realise how much it meant to people until we announced we were closing.”

He added: “I looked at it and thought it’s not working, we need to close and that was it. But when we saw the response and the impact it’s had, we’re thinking about how we can find another location which is more suitable.

“I feel like there could be more. I don’t know whether it could be a community interest company.”

The cafe also has games for people to play and runs evening events to encourage customers to socialise.

Ms Brown added: “We have a big group of regulars, kids with social needs and people with mental health issues. It can be difficult for them to find somewhere they are comfortable and that’s what we’ve done. We feel like we’ve let them down.”

The couple says a drop in revenue means the venue is no longer viable. They said they started struggling when the redevelopment of The Gates started.

Mr Pye added: “There have been a number of factors. The overarching issue was the construction work which has led to a downturn in people coming to the city.

"It just started to feel like there were more and more reasons not to come to Durham. M&S left, there were empty shops, the council increased its pricing for parking.”

Sarah Robson, from Durham County Council, said: “We are very sorry to hear about the closure of Dark Matter café. There is a lot of work underway to regenerate Durham, including private sector investment to redevelop Milburngate and the Gates. We welcome this investment as these schemes will boost the local economy by millions of pounds and create job opportunities whilst also bringing more people into the city centre for the benefit of new and existing businesses.

“Managing parking in city centres is always a challenge and charges have remained the same in most parts of Durham for many years. Where there have been increases, this was to encourage more short stay parking to allow more people to visits the shops and eateries.”

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