Burger trader: ‘It’s a victory for little guy’
Five-star hotel is defeated in its bid to evict van from 26-year pitch after claims business was causing a 'nuisance'
15 December, 2017 — By Joe Cooper
Burger van owner Peter Carter: ‘I am an ordinary working guy’
A BURGER van owner took on the might of the Town Hall and a multi-million-pound hotel chain – and won.
Peter Carter can keep his pitch of 26 years in front of the Montcalm Hotel, in Finsbury Square, despite a claim that he was causing a “nuisance”.
Emerging from a bad-tempered, two-and-a-half hour licence review at the Town Hall on Wednesday night, Mr Carter told the Tribune: “I feel great. The little guy has beaten the big guy.”
Mr Carter and his wife Ann have been trading on the same spot since the 1990s.
They said they never had any complaints before Montcalm opened its five-star hotel last October. He mostly sells burgers to cabbies on weekday evenings.
The hotel made a flurry of complaints to Islington Council, claiming the Carters were in breach of street trading conditions and that the character of Finsbury Square had “transformed” in recent years.
They claimed the van was too big, was parked where it shouldn’t be and that it posed a health and safety risk.
The council refused Montcalm planning permission for the 256-bed hotel in 2014, citing the loss of office space, but its decision was overturned by a planning inspector.
This week’s licence review was brought by the council’s street trading team, who argued that the Carters had breached parts of their licence agreement.
Representing Montcalm, Jeremy Bark told councillors: “Enough is enough.”
He was frequently interrupted by Mr Carter, who did not have legal representation, and two supporters. Mr Carter revealed the reason his wife Ann was not present was because she was recovering from cancer.
“We are a perfectly legitimate business which can reasonably expect that businesses around us comply with conditions,” Mr Bark said.
“Smells that come from the van go into reception and the restaurant. We get complaints from customers on social media and TripAdvisor.
“The nature of this area now has completely changed.”
He added: “These breaches simply cannot be resolved in any practical way.”
Hitting back, Mr Carter told Mr Bark: “I know that square like the back of my hand and it hasn’t changed. You have been there 12 months and you are the only reason we are here today.
“You are bullying the small man. I am an ordinary working guy.”
He said police had been called three times to reports of fighting outside the Montcalm. Customers and staff at the hotel frequently bought his £3 burgers and tea, he added.
Mr Carter explained that he had left the van at the pitch for around three weeks in October because it had been vandalised and he was waiting for it to be fixed.
“It was a period when I was all over the place,” he said. “Things were going wrong. I was going to hospital with Ann. I’ve never done that before to Islington Council.”
Refusing the street trading team’s application to revoke the licence, the panel of three councillors said they accepted Mr Carter’s explanation, but added that he would have to meet the team to discuss the size of the van.