Nova Scotia

Food for thought: Halifax Central Library partners with non-profit group for new cafés

Halifax Public Libraries is partnering with MetroWorks to create an inclusive café and social enterprise at its central location.

Ampersand Café will provide work experience to employees, inclusive social space for patrons

Halifax library patrons will have two new café locations to visit when eating and drinking are allowed again. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC)

Eating and drinking haven't been allowed at Halifax public libraries for almost a year because of the pandemic. But when they do return there will be a new place to go at the central library — the Ampersand Café.

Halifax Public Libraries has partnered with not-for-profit social enterprise MetroWorks to create café locations on the first and fifth floors of its central location on Spring Garden Road. 

MetroWorks was established in 1977 and operates workshops and on-site work activities to assist people with barriers to employment to gain skills and find employment.

The organization worked on a similar project at the Keshen Goodman Public Library in 2020. But the timing could not have been worse, according to Dave Rideout, the president and CEO of MetroWorks.

"We were due to open the same day the lockdown came in in 2020. So we really haven't had a chance to see the full potential of that café just yet," he said.

"But hopefully, with some of the restrictions being lifted, we can get a handle on COVID, then we can provide a better service to the area, to that community."

Two sets of benefits

Rideout said the name Ampersand was chosen because it is about the "and."

An artist's rendering of the Ampersand Café at Halifax's central library. (Metroworks)

He said the project will provide a "great product at a reasonable price" and, at the same time, a training opportunity for participants.

Profits from the enterprise will be used to support other MetroWorks projects, Rideout said. 

In addition to 25 part-time employment opportunities at the two café locations, he said there will also be opportunities created at their commercial kitchen at Bayers Road which will supply the cafés and provide catering services. 

Kathleen Peverill, the senior service manager for the central district of the Halifax Public Libraries, said in a news release the new café would offer a "welcoming and social experience" to anyone entering the library.

"Their inclusive business model and welcoming atmosphere make them a natural partner for Central Library," Peverill said.

With some of the participants expected to be new immigrants, Rideout is hoping it will give them a chance to engage with their new community and introduce some foods from their culture into the library.

Rideout said with so much uncertainty in the pandemic and the decision on allowing eating and drinking up to the library, he is focused on getting the renovations done. 

He said tenders for the work went out recently and he is hoping that the facilities will be in place by "early winter or possibly the new year."

According to the news release, no library interruptions are expected during the renovation phase.  

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