A CAFE that lets customers eat their food and drink for free or choose to “pay for someone else’s” has opened in a former High Street pharmacy.

Human Kind, a new community café, opened in the former Lloyds Pharmacy in Billericay for its first day of business, offering a range of cakes, coffee, smoothies and toasties - all of which are vegetarian.

The café is using a “pay it forward” scheme, meaning when you buy food the bill is paid for by the Human Kind charity and customers are given the choice to pay for someone else’s meal or not pay at all.

Project manager, Sarah Hawkes, has said that by doing this, they enforce “no barriers” to people coming to the café and joining in with the community to combat loneliness.

Ms Hawkes said: “We feel strongly about social isolation, and we don’t want barriers - financial barriers are most common.

“We want people to have the company and take part in any activities we run, so we work with our ‘pay it forward’ concept.

“If, for instance, you came in and wanted coffee and cake the bill would say someone has paid ahead of you and then you can choose to pay for someone else.

“Say if someone feels generous, they can pay more than what the bill comes to and we really don’t want to create barriers to sharing in and experiencing the kindness we do.”

The café will be open seven days a week, even on Sundays, to prevent people being left out on a day “that is incredibly isolating for some”.

Its first day was a huge success with dozens of customers walking through the doors.

Ms Hawkes added: “We have recently had a dementia awareness event and we want this café to be a totally different experience.

“People will come and not really understand what happened but leave, hopefully, with a changed ethos.

“As well as that, all our food is vegetarian and healthy, we have a big choice of vegan food and it would be nice to have some variety on the High Street.

“Our menu of toasties, veggie breakfasts and smoothie bowls will continue to evolve over time.”