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Work and play at workhouse café

L-R: Mathieu, Lucille, and Marc co-foundd the co-working space in the centre of Nice Where great coffee and great ideas combine. Riviera Insider interviews co-owner Marc Wratten about the concept and the day-to-day running of an urban co-working space.

Calling all freelancers, students and start-ups… Boulevard Risso in Nice is home to a new co-working bureau called Workhouse Café. The café has been open since the start of the year and has already gained quite the following.

On entering Workhouse Café, you’re immediately struck with how much space there is. The ceilings are high, the tables have ample room and are all spaced well apart, which gives the place a very orderly air. It’s nothing like the small French cafés where everyone is on top of one another.

The concept of co-working is still relatively new in Nice and I ask Marc Wratten where the inspiration came from to create the café. “My brother-in-law Mathieu [Mari] wanted to open a café in Nice similar to something he had seen in Australia,” explains Marc. “Lucille (my wife) and I come from a corporate background so when the opportunity came up to combine the café with the co-working idea, we decided to go for it. We felt that Nice was an up-and-coming city where a lot of entrepreneurial groups are starting to emerge.”

Workhouse Café serves Anglo-Saxon style brunch every day – think eggs benedict and Hollandaise sauce instead of croissants with jam – and they have trained baristas serving coffee to recreate the Australian coffee culture. Marc jokingly tells me that their barista, Yohann, believes: “The French don’t realise it, but they’ve been drinking bad coffee for thirty years!”

What makes Workhouse Café unique among other coworking spaces is the flexibility. If I were to go to Workhouse for four hours, I would pay 20€ (5€ per hour). This hourly tariff includes the use of the office space, access to high speed fibre optic internet and Wi-Fi, exclusive access to the privatised terrace and unlimited hot drinks. You can also pay 30€ for an entire day or 350€ per month for unlimited access. Marc tells me that 130 co-workers have come to test the place since opening and they currently have eight permanent clients at the facility.

They also rent out the property for events and functions in-line with their co-working ethos such as those for start-ups and freelancers. The space has private lockers as well as two meeting rooms and one interview room, a phone booth and a printer.

I ask Marc why he thinks people use communal work spaces: “People working from home feel lonely, they’re by themselves and they want to be part of something, which is why they go out and look for a co-working space.” He talks about the atmosphere that’s created when you have a group of freelancers come together: “I can see that people give one another energy and indeed sometimes they give one another ideas, especially in the start-up world. The difference between a co-working space and a shared office is how the community is managed and how that community comes together over time.”

The terrace in Workhouse is privatised during the week for co-workers and Marc tells me: “It gives them a space where they can relax and meet other people. If this was suddenly for the general public, I don’t think it would create the same sense of community!”


Mia Colleran