THE owners of a cafe bar look set to take Blackpool Council to a costly judicial review over a row about outdoor seating.
Mike Gibson and Ricky Caunce of Toast Cafe Bar and Grill in Corporation Street, say they spent thousands of pounds on extra outdoor seating equipment after being given the go-ahead by council officers – only for the authority to refuse permission at a later date.
Mr Caunce said they met with a licensing officer before the business opened to discuss the space available outside, to ensure it was the right premises to buy.
He added: “We got in touch in early 2008 and told him we needed a certain number of tables outside to sustain the business.
“He told us the council was looking to up the ante on cafe culture and they wanted what they have in Spain.
“He also said if everything was run to council standards and they were happy, we would be given more space the following season.
“In the March he simply said no to the extra space. But we could now have a second area adjacent to the road with a passage through the middle for pedestrians.
“I asked how we were supposed to operate that, carrying hot food and drinks across the path of pedestrians.
“I then got an enforcement visit after spending £5,000 on furniture for the scheme – including a £350 charge from the council for moving a bench to accommodate it.”
Mr Caunce and Mr Gibson were even taken to court by the council under a Section 149 nuisance order and spent an age preparing for the case in Manchester. The council then withdrew its complaint.
Mr Caunce added: “They pulled the plug two days before knowing they were going to lose. It was a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
When the duo pointed out a similar bench to the one they had to pay to remove was outside the neighbouring Rose and Crown, they claim council workers removed it at no charge within three days.
A council spokesman said: “Many cafes and bars chose to apply for a street cafe licence so they can offer an outdoor seating area for their customers.
“Toast Cafe is one of those businesses which has chosen to purchase a licence and has therefore agreed to operate within the conditions set out in the council’s policy. As far as we’re aware there are no ongoing issues.”
She added that anyone wishing to obtain a street cafe licence has their application considered by an internal panel. The applicant is then notified of the decision.
But Mr Caunce said: “The business is going to fail without extra space. Business Link came in and did a feasibility study with the space we had been given outside and said without that extra revenue we would close.
“We’ve been bullied into accepting what we’ve been given. We will now go for a judicial review.
The cafe licensing panel lacks transparency.”