How does he manage?

Classic cafe owner - Lorenzo Marioni, New Piccadilly Cafe, Soho

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

When did you become a manager?

I've been working at the cafe since my father opened it in 1951, and I took over in 1974. But it has only got about a year left. These one-off cafes are dying. Developers expect you to pay the same rent as Burger King down the road, and that defeats the purpose - serving food at street prices. Meanwhile, the chain places don't know how to make a decent cup of tea.

What does management mean to you?

Always watching the door so you know who's around. I got familiar with all manner of humankind here. In the late '50s, the cafe was the headquarters of Hungarian street rats, guys who had escaped the uprising and set up in London. Italian gangsters came in for their daily slice of cafe life, and in the '60s we'd get overrun by bikers, with their leather jackets and bike chains. I banned them, but they threw dustbins through the windows. I learnt not to get heavy with the heavies - play music to the beast.

What do you love/hate about your job?

I know nothing else. I'm here seven days a week, and I've got no other social life. But people like familiarity, so the captain has to be on the bridge. The cafe is an organic, living thing - I can close whenever I like, and it often turns into a party. Having been here all my life, I really feel the cafe's mine, but of course it's not. So I'm hoping my kids become shyster lawyers - that's where the money is.

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