The woman who runs Cardiff's popular Secret Garden Cafe in Bute Park has won her fight to keep the lease. Melissa Boothman will now be able to continue to run the cafe for the next five years.

Ms Boothman's future at the cafe had been thrown into doubt in 2022 when Cardiff Council started lease negotiations with the operator and informed her the following year that her offers for a renewal would not be accepted.

The local authority put a new management agreement and associated lease out to market through Sell 2 Wales in December before announcing in March that it had found an operator to award it to. The local authority said at the time that it could not reveal the identity of the proposed new operator during a two-week legalling process and call-in window which came to a close on Monday, April 8.

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A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: "We are delighted to report that - following a full and proper procurement process - the council has awarded a five-year concession agreement and associated lease to the current operator of the Secret Garden Cafe in Bute Park. We look forward to continuing our working relationship with the leaseholder and we know the cafe will continue to play its part in helping us meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the award-winning green heart of the city every year." For more Cardiff news, sign up to our newsletter here.

Visitors to Bute Park and The Secret Garden Cafe came out in their thousands to show their support for Ms Boothman and her team when it was reported that she could be leaving the premises. People also noted the contribution the cafe under Ms Boothman has made to the park and community over the years, including the thousands of pounds it put towards repairing the park and replanting trees and the thousands of pounds donated to various charities.

Left to right: Melissa Boothman (Secret Garden Café), Paul Barrett (Friends of Bute Park), Chris Engel (Coed Caerdydd), Cllr Jennifer Burke (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Events)
Left to right: Melissa Boothman (Secret Garden Café), Paul Barrett (Friends of Bute Park), Chris Engel (Coed Caerdydd), Cllr Jennifer Burke (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Events)

The Secret Garden Cafe was previously held under a property lease. At the beginning of 2023, the council sought legal advice on offers put forward by Ms Boothman and decided a management agreement instead of a property lease agreement was the best way forward for the premises.

Cardiff Council's decision to go out to tender was called in for scrutiny by Liberal Democrats councillor, Cllr Rhys Taylor, in August 2023 to look at whether the process followed by the local authority had been fair to the tenant. The council's head of economic development, Neil Hanratty, said at the meeting that he regretted the anxiety the process of deciding the future of the cafe caused Ms Boothman and her staff.

He also encouraged Ms Boothman to bid when the management agreement went out to market and apologised for the period of time it took for the council to get to a point where it understood that a concession agreement was needed. The award of the management agreement and lease takes effect from Tuesday, April 9.