Happy birthday to Black Betty Café, one of Switch Espresso’s favourite babies.

It all started on February 1, 2011. We hit the market with a new concept: a quality café in a spacious former warehouse, complete with coffee plants, a grow room, and a lot of different brew methods on offer. We loved the building and we loved the central location, just across the road from Ara. Black Betty was buzzing with cool people, students, tutors, city folk. It was awesome.

You might recognise February 2011 as a pretty big month for Christchurch. Yep, just three weeks after we opened the big earthquake rolled in and shut down the CBD. Seven weeks later, we were lucky enough to be allowed back in and – with the help of some emergency engineering – start serving again.

It was a busy time, and we were all incredibly appreciative to have jobs when so many other businesses weren’t so lucky. It was also a hard time for the team, who were going through the same emotional trauma as others, and continued to provide hospitality with smiles on their faces. We were very proud and thankful for this crew, and for Black Betty.

We even opened nights for a year to fill a gap made by the closure of so many restaurants. It was a good time, with live music and great food. We returned to normal café trading hours as our friends in nearby restaurants and nightlife digs started to get up and running again.

The earthquake did eventually catch up with Black Betty, which had to shut down for 111 days for permanent structural repairs and strengthening. Again, we were lucky to be able to continue trading from a shed out the back, and managed to keep all our staff. This was in no small part thanks to our landlords, who have always been willing to work with us to make good things happen.

Black Betty reopened fully in 2014, and has been going strong since. Hamish says the secret to the café’s first decade has been “nourishing a really cool culture where people want to come to work and are proud of working in that place”.

Here’s to another 10 years!

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