A popular café in East Sheen has been forced to close after its owner became increasingly concerned with rising energy and staffing costs.

James Drago-Ferrante first opened a branch of Lupo Bros in East Sheen in 2021, only two years after he opened the first Lupo Bros café in Wimbledon.

Despite coronavirus challenges for the hospitality sector, 38-year-old James said that things were more difficult now.

The owner said this year has been "horrendous" - with everything from energy to eggs increasing in price.

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Lupo Bros in Wimbledon (photo: Ed Halford)Lupo Bros in Wimbledon (photo: Ed Halford) (Image: Ed Halford)

James told the Richmond and Twickenham Times: “This year has been horrendous.

"From price rises to staffing issues caused by Brexit.

"It has just been a very stressful year.

"Not just for myself, but for many people in hospitality.

“Everything has increased, energy, packaging, dairy, meat, soft drinks, coffee, fish, eggs and waste collections."

James said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the crisis - with vegetable oil which cost £18 for 20 litres at the beginning of the year now costing £38.

He explained: "Closing the café came with mixed emotions because we took over a closed down pizzeria and we invested a lot of money to convert it.

"But it is just very unenjoyable now.

“Every day is crisis management in some respects.

"Hospitality as a whole is meant to be a people happy experience but generally everyone is just stressed out.”

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Lupo Bros (photo: Ed Halford)Lupo Bros (photo: Ed Halford) (Image: Ed Halford)

James thinks the government are "kicking the can down the road" in their handling of spiralling inflation and rising energy costs.

He added: "Instead of facing the problems of today, they are just delaying it. Another year, another two years, or another five years.”

“In one way this economic environment is the worst I remember yes, because at least when Covi was here there was a lot of government support, and it was worldwide.

“Everybody was going through the same experience.

"Now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has impacted on everything, and it’s man-made.”

He added: “It is created by one person and seems very extreme. I mean…what is the end goal? What is Putin trying to achieve?”

East Sheen is only a small village and Drago-Ferrante said the café relied heavily on a “lot of locals.”

However, Lupo Bros faced increasing competition from more coffee shops opening in East Sheen - including independents and chains such as Gail's Bakery.

James said: “East Sheen is a village. It’s not like Oxford Street where you get thousands of people walking past every day.

“The locals do support local businesses, but they can’t go to twenty different coffee shops. You can only drink so much coffee.”

In addition to the price rises, James found staffing problems were starting to become more severe.

He said: “It is very difficult to recruit staff at the moment.

“They accept a high paid job as a manger or head chef, and within a week or two they get a job offer elsewhere for £5,000 more per year or £10,000 more per year, and they obviously go to that job instead without any notice.”

James explained was not an issue unique to the local area, as his friends who run restaurants in central London and Carnaby street were also short staffed.

He has decided keep his Lupo Bros café in Wimbledon open but employs less than eight staff.

He continued: “Before, people would work for between £10-11 per hour.

“Now to get someone of experienced calibre, you are paying between £14-15 per hour.

"It is a massive increase. You can’t put your coffee up by the same percentage as you would be paying £5 for a cappuccino.

“I mean nobody is going to pay £5 for a cappuccino but that’s what it should be really.”

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on James' customer’s pockets was starting to show before closure.

“I think people are definitely being more careful, more cautious. Maybe if they came two to three times a week, they are cutting down to once a week”, he said.

James said he would continue to keep Lupo Bros open in Wimbledon but described the current climate as “very volatile.”

He added: “It is all a knock-on effect from Covid, Brexit and of course the war in Ukraine.”