Vegan cafe to close after refusing to sell milk

Cool Beans Cafe owner/operator Morgan Redfern-Hardisty. Photo: supplied via NZ Herald
Cool Beans Cafe owner/operator Morgan Redfern-Hardisty. Photo: supplied via NZ Herald

The owner of a vegan cafe says he is being forced to close after customers complained about not being served dairy milk.

Mangawhai's Cool Beans Cafe in Northland has been offering plant-based products only, including home-made almond milk, since July 27 as a means to reduce its environmental impact.

Owner/operator Morgan Redfern-Hardisty said he was told by the Mangawhai Activity Zone Charitable Trust (MAZCT), which manages commercial operations on the Kaipara District Council-owned site, there were complaints about him not offering dairy products.

The trust told him he needed to revert to the "status quo" for his contract to be renewed, he said.

"That is where it ends for me," Redfern-Hardisty said.

"Some people have complained and it seems like I am not catering to everyone's taste. When it comes down to taste, or suffering, suffering is not worth it."

Trust chairman Colin Gallagher told The New Zealand Herald Cool Beans Cafe made the decision to close down, as it had refused to offer customers "a choice of additives when ordering coffee".

Gallagher said he would comment further later today.

Redfern-Hardisty, who has been vegan for three years after developing Crohn's disease, said since he made the change to only plant-based products the majority of the community had been "very supportive".

"My intention purely was to reduce the cafe's impact on the environment, provide healthy alternatives and to not use and exploit animals in any way. Even the best dairy farms in New Zealand are still tainting the waterways."

The change was also a conversation-starter with customers about dairy-alternatives.

"I had been holding my tongue serving cow's milk, but since making the switch the community reaction has been so positive," Redfern-Hardisty said.

"There is a trend happening worldwide towards more environmental, ethical and health conscious products, and so when people saw a small cafe like mine make this change they were very supportive. I just thought New Zealand is so adaptable."

Redfern-Hardisty offered six milk alternatives to dairy, including the homemade almond milk, and soy, oat, rye, coconut and hazelnut options. It also offered ice creams, smoothies, stacked cheese toasties, crispy sausage rolls and sweet raw goods.

Before he made the change the MAZCT had warned him it might not be "financially wise", Redfern-Hardisty said.

But it had been the opposite.

"Business has been booming. Sales have been up 25 percent over the past month."

Over the past two years he had kept a "good relationship" with the trust, he said.

He kept a fundraising box for the trust on his counter, did a lot of volunteer work at the skatepark, and even shaved his dreadlocks off in June raising them $1325.

"There has been a lot of mutual respect up to this point. I even told them about my changes in advance, but for some reason they thought they could have a say over what ingredients I could offer. It was ludicrous, I thought it was a joke."

Redfern-Hardisty said at this point it looked like his last day operating would be Labour Day.

Members of the Mangawhai community have expressed outrage on social media at the trust's decision.

A petition launched yesterday calling for the trust to reverse its decision has already garnered over 2000 signatures.


MAZCT needs to get with the 21st century. How can they tell a cafe owner what to sell? No concern about not selling meat? Would they do this to a cafe that didn't sell non-dairy alternatives? Need a few open, educated minds on that trust, by the sound of it.

Surely not. This man has done nothing wrong and offers an alternative. If customers don’t like it, they can go elsewhere. Leave the man alone to do what can only be defined as a public benefit.