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Mercury fight helps save acclaimed youth café from closure

The Weston & Somerset Mercury has helped to save a nationally acclaimed youth café from closure.

Barcode, an under 18s alcohol-free café, has been applauded by the Home Office and is regularly visited by people from around the country hoping to set up a similar venture.

More than 22,000 young people passed through Barcode’s doors in its first year – but its future came under threat when members of Weston Town Council, which holds the lease for the building, questioned the cost to taxpayers and said it did not make enough money.

The concerns came as the council had to vote on whether to renew the lease for ten years or close the café.

But the Archant-owned Mercury launched a hard-hitting campaign and held the councillors to account by naming and shaming those that did not support Barcode, demanding to know why they would not vote to keep it open.

The paper received more than 240 letters from children, parents and grandparents calling for councillors to see sense and support the venue.

Several pages were devoted each week to printing the letters along with interviews with youth councillors, police officers and rival councillors all heralding the café as a star facility for the town’s young people.

Editor Judi Kisiel, who is on Barcode’s management board, said: “This café is one of the most important facilities to be created in Weston for years.

“It’s not just a place for good kids to go and meet, but for youngsters from all walks of life, many who have a rough time at home, to spend time in a safe place that has been designed by them and for them.

“To even consider closing it and throwing away all the fabulous work that has come out of it so far is not just narrow-minded, penny-pinching and cruel, but insulting to all the kids and community leaders who have fought to make it something truly magical.”

Following the paper’s fight, a crucial meeting saw a unanimous vote to keep Barcode open and sign up to a ten-year lease for the building.

In front of a packed public gallery, the Mercury was singled out for praise for its campaigning and support over the eight weeks Barcode’s future hung in the balance and bringing such a vital subject to the public’s attention.

The aim of Barcode is to provide a safe, high quality venue for young people to adopt as their base in town. It provides a youth café, discos, chill out centre, karaoke, base for youth twinning visits, opportunity to play and listen to live music.

In addition it is used as a venue for groups such as young teenage parents when not open to the general public.

Barcode is open after school, evenings, weekends and during school holidays with a no entry fee policy.