COFFEE BARS and cafés in Hackney are being told by the council to take tables and chairs off the pavement. In one case, police told a chic hair salon to take its chairs inside.
The bar and café owners are worried that the council crackdown will reverse the social revolution that has been crucial to turning the borough from a burger-bar dump into a hipster mecca.
They claim that the emergence of a Parisian-style pavement culture has boosted commerce throughout Hackney, especially in Shoreditch, Hoxton and Dalston. What one called the “ShoHoDa effect” had brought new trade to the three districts – and had an effect on security: thieves were less likely to operate under the gaze of seated coffee-sippers.
Owners say that a £1,000 fee has been mentioned. That included a £100 “administrative charge” to cover the cost of measuring the space.
A six-month permit can be bought for a total of just under £750, a one-month permit for less than £250.
Some operators are too frightened to talk to the media. Loving Dalston has seen an email sent to a Stoke Newingon coffeeteria that in effect bluntly orders: “Comply or else.”
One manager said: “Our customers have enjoyed sitting outside in the unusual warm weather this autumn.” They had signed a petition that ran to 12 pages.
The manager added: “As a struggling new business, we had no choice but to take our tables in.
The Troy restaurant at Shoreditch E2 8DP told Loving Dalston that it could not afford to pay, either.
Alperen Yalchin, pictured above, left, an accountant who advises the Troy, told Loving Dalston, that at a time of economic trouble the council should be encouraging young businesses by loosening, not tightening, regulations.
Asked why new ventures did not allow for such costs, he conceded that ideally they would but that “when you go into businesses you don’t think of every cost, or even know, for example, that you have to pay to use the pavement”. He added: “It’s daunting to impose restrictions on new businesses.”
Another snackerie, the Premises, in Hackney Road, Shoreditch E2 8JL, pays up but is amused that Tower Hamlets council, which controls the other side of the street, seemed to have adopted a far-from-draconian approach to furniture on the pavement.
In Kingsland Road E8 4AE, “Rap” Weldon of Betty’s Coffee said a council official had ordered pavement cleared or a permit bought. The venue had reluctantly taken in its table and chairs.
Dan Beaumont of Dalston Superstore, Kingsland High Street E8 2PB, said: “We pay the annual fee. It’s easy money for the council.”
A council official told Loving Dalston it had held a public consultation for several months up to March this year about changing the fees for “shopfront trading”. Traders are now charged for the amount of space they use rather than paying a flat rate as before.
The official said: “The resultant fees and charges, the first such changes made by Hackney in 16 years, came into effect on 5 July 2011.” Police could occasionally ask for tables and chairs to be moved inside “in the public interest”.
David Altheer 271111
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.
* Hackney council also raised eyebrows recently when it set out to to find a “major café chain” to run a venue in the yet-to-open archives building in Dalston Lane, a prime venue because of its nearness to Dalston Junction station. Hackney café society was surprised that the contract was awarded to a local takeaway owner to open a Starbucks rather than to one of the innovative coffee shops for which the borough has won a London-wide reputation.