Our Mission, Values and Purpose


The Arc Cafe is a community project set up in July 2012 by the Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA) in partnership with St Mary Redcliffe Church.

We are passionate about providing our customers with delicious, freshly-made food and drink.

However, we are not just your everyday cafe.

We aim to provide people in recovery from addiction and mental health problems with a wide range of education, training and employment opportunities.


We make life better because we believe passionately that people can change and recover. You can read more about ARA’s purpose, vision and values here.


Our Staff, volunteers, managers and board members are:

  • Passionate
  • Dynamic
  • Enduring
  • Respectful
  • Professional
  • Supportive

What the Arc Cafe provides

Providing Volunteers with

  • Structure, direction and purpose to their lives
  • Customer service skills, qualifications and the confidence to succeed within a working environment
  • Catering, hospitality and business administration skills & qualifications
  • Team work support
  • Links to a range of community networks
  • Further training and work opportunities

Providing Customers with

  • Delicious home-cooked food using many locally sourced products
  • Fabulous coffee
  • Friendly customer service
  • Free Wi-FI
  • A relaxed atmosphere in unique historic setting
  • A loyalty card scheme


Providing the Community with

  • A project which reduces the stigma around addiction
  • Positive ‘Recovery Role Models’
  • A great space for training & events
  • Outside catering options


Our Challenges

There has been a 44% increase in the rate of deaths from drug misuse in Bristol since 2012, new government data shows. Nationally, there has been a sharp rise in drug misuse deaths, continuing a grim trend that has been in train since the early nineties, when recent records began.

Bristol, which has the highest rates of heroin and crack cocaine use out of all the core cities, has a rate of drug misuse mortality at the same level as the north-west and north-east regions, which are known for having the highest incidence of drug misuse in the country. [Source]

In addition, one in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their life.

In 2017/18 ARA supported;

365 people affected by substance misuse with a housing issue

67 LGBTQ people affected by substance misuse

60 Prison leavers with a substance misuse issue and housing problem

710 People in hospital with a substance misuse issue

1312 People with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorders

444 People with a problem gambling issue

52 People affected by another’s problem gambling

30 Families affected by anyone of the issues identified above

Without sustained recovery from addiction and mental health challenges, accessing help from services can feel insurmountable. People on lower incomes who tend to be the most affected by these issues often struggle to access the medication, quality housing and employment needed to prevent relapse.

This is where we at the Arc Cafe aim to fill the need for structure, employment and social connections.

We’re here to build a community that provides support and skills for those working to break the cycle of homelessness, addiction, and other mental health challenges.

Our Work

The Arc Café is a supportive environment for the people of Bristol in recovery from many different issues. Whether someone is newer to recovery, in long-term recovery, has had a relapse, experiencing a difficult life change, health challenge or mental health transition, the recovery cafe offers evidence-based support and acceptance.

We teach people kitchen and hospitality skills for employment, help them to maintain sobriety, build community, and to help each individual reclaim life as a person worthy of a fulfilling career.

Through our work, we prevent that individual from another potentially life-ending crisis, saving taxpayer money in emergency intervention to stabilise that person, and allowing mental health and addiction support professionals to focus on health maintenance and addiction prevention.

ARA is a registered charity (No. 1002224) formed in 1987. Since then it is estimated that ARA has helped over 40,000 people with alcohol, drug, gambling and mental health issues, and has saved an estimated £50 million in costs to the community.

Speak to any of our volunteers and their enthusiasm for what we do will shine out.

Our History

A group of people from the Addiction Recovery Agency had the idea back in 2011 and decided to set up a cafe where people could learn the skills they needed to become employable and help integrate back into the community. With the help of Saint Mary Redcliffe Church, this became a reality and the cafe opened in 2012. Based in the Undercroft, a unique and beautiful building attached to the church, the cafe has gone from strength to strength.

Hundreds of volunteers have been through our doors and gained friendship, new skills, qualifications and a sense of achievement since we opened. Many happy customers have also been through our doors and we are lucky to have lovely customers including many regulars, some of whom we see every day.

We hope that we will see you very soon and welcome you to our beautiful, unique cafe.