Fylde forces veterans are set to benefit from a new town centre cafe.
In what is thought to be a ground-breaking move nationally, the Fylde Veterans charity will use all profits from refreshment sales from its NAAFI Cafe in Wood Street, St Annes to help the hundreds of men and women across the borough who have served Queen and country.
The cafe, which officials hope to open by early August, will be in the former Garden Cafe premises at the corner of Orchard Road.
The Veterans have acquired it on a two-year lease with an option to buy and it is currently being converted into the cafe which is set to be open six days a week, serving a full range of refreshments to the general public as well as being a regular meeting place for ex-forces organisations and individuals.
Fylde Veterans president Coun Ed Nash is also hopeful that rooms at the premises can be made available to provide accommodation for ex-forces people in need.
He said: “It’s a really exciting project and as far as I know it will be the first of its kind in the country.
“We aim to provide a cafe which will prove attractive to residents and visitors as well as providing a centre for veterans to come to and meet with fellow ex-service people.
“The aim is for all the profits to go towards the needs of the veterans, many of whom need help with finding work and even accommodation when they leave the forces and often many years later.
“We have a core of 20-odd members who regularly meet and help with charity events, such as marshalling at club days and the like, but we know there are so many more out there who are in need of help and have turned to us in the past when they have a problem.
“We have been looking for some time to establish some kind of operation which can generate a surplus to help the veterans and this was too good an opportunity to miss.
“It’s a prominent site right at the heart of the town centre and we hope it will be well supported.
“We haven’t decided on exact opening hours yet but we hope to be open six days a week and intend to provide something for everyone.”
Tony Parker, a locally-based former army catering corps sergeant, is set to look after the kitchen, while other veterans will be involved front of house and Ed is also looking to recruit possibly two others staff members.
“Everybody who has served in the forces is familiar with the term NAAFI Cafe and we intend to provide a warm, welcoming atmosphere which we hope everyone will enjoy,” added Ed, a former Army major who is also Fylde Council’s armed forces champion.
NAAFI stands for Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, which created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces.
It runs restaurants, cafés and other facilities on most British military bases and also canteens on board Royal Navy ships.
Spencer Leader, president of St Annes British Legion, said: “The new cafe is a great idea, we looking forward to it opening and hope it will be well supported.”
British Legion officials will be in St Annes’ Ashton Gardens on Sunday afternoon from 2pm to mark the culmination of Armed Forces Week with a variety of activities, including a tombola.
The opening of Armed Forces week on Monday was marked by the traditional flag-raising ceremony at the Town Hall, attended by the new deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Col Rosie Stone, who lives in St Annes.
The ceremony also included the signing of the first Armed Forces Corporate Covenant in Fylde by Chris Webb of the Dalmeny Hotel.