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Uncertain future for Brussels play cafe L'Haricot Magique

13:29 23/01/2022

Brussels’ popular “pushchair café”, L’Haricot Magique, has warned that its existence is threatened and it could have to close this spring if extra funding cannot be found.

The cafe, located within the See-U complex on the former barracks in Ixelles, is largely financed by the sale of coffee and food to the customers present – but the number of tables is limited.

"We formed a non-profit association and the whole space here has been designed so that the parents who come can chill out,” said founder Rachida Bouganzir.

“However, for this to work, it was necessary to limit the number of tables and therefore the capacity at the same time. We have eight tables. This allows there to be enough space for the children to walk around between the tables, to play around.

“This is what allows parents to relax – but it therefore reduces income. If we had put more tables, 20for example, we could have been economically profitable.”

To raise more income, L’Haricot Magique decided to try something new. "Parents who come now pay a playdate fee to support the project,” Bouganzir added.

“It costs €5 per family to stay for two hours, which has helped our bottom line and we have enough to stay open and survive for now. But it's still not enough.

“I need someone to manage the administration and coordinate things. But with the current income, I cannot pay a salary.

“Grant applications have been made but haven’t generated anything yet. If nothing changes in the coming weeks, we will have to close by 31 March, the date on which the Haricot Magique must leave the temporary premises it occupies at See-U.”

Customers are keen to see the concept survive. "The selection of toys is more interesting than at home", said Ylva, a Swedish mother living in Ixelles, an expat in Belgium for 12 years.

"It's very nice to be able to leave your home and be able to chat with other adults. It would be a real shame if it closed. There are other play cafes designed for very young children and their parents in Brussels, but this one has something more.”

Written by Richard Harris