Shops v stalls: eating away trade
Leather Lane restaurants petition council over ‘out of control’ street food sellers
29 March, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Pieminister, hidden behind a street stall in Leather Lane
RESTAURANT and café owners in Leather Lane have signed a petition urging Camden Council to curb street food stalls which they claim are ruining their businesses.
The road in Holborn, which has had a street market since the reign of Charles II in the 1600s, has seen a huge rise in traders selling takeaway food. But established businesses in the shops that run alongside the street market say the stalls are so close to their front doors that it wrecks their trade, and are demanding a redesign or a cap on the number of hot food vendors.
Jon Simon, the owner of pie and mash shop Pieminister, told the Extra: “I have owned a restaurant on Leather Lane for 10 years and the street food has got so far out of control that my restaurant has been completely blocked off so customers can no longer get through the stalls into my restaurant.”
He added: “We used to have people queuing onto the street but now they can’t even see the restaurant. We only trade Monday to Friday between 11am and 3.30pm as there’s no one there outside of these times. It is very important for us to be visible or we won’t survive.”
Stallholder Richie Rich
Haydar Sal, of the Oasis Café, said: “One of our issues is we pay very high business rates and very high rents – much, much more than the stalls out front – and people just can’t see the shop now. The market is busier for food nowadays but it has lost many of the other stalls it used to have.”
He said he pays around £12,000 a year in business rates and another £35,000 a year in rent – and said a simple redesign could help everyone. He added:
“Perhaps they could just go down one side of the street, or stagger the days they come.”
Stallholders say shop owners have to be realistic about the footfall they can expect – and remember the market has a long history.
Richie Rich, who runs a ladies fashion stall, has worked at Leather Lane for 29 years, said: “When I first started it was unbelievable. I didn’t get a full-time stall for the first six years, it was so popular. I didn’t think I’d live long enough to spend all the cash I was taking.”
Tom Hall at Pieminister
He said the market changed in 2005 when the council allowed hot food stalls in – and this, coupled with wider changes in shopping habits, meant Leather Lane has issues to tackle. He said: “The café owners don’t really have a leg to stand on. The market has always been here and there used to be more stalls.
“You couldn’t get a fag paper between them, and the crowds were so solid it would take you 10 minutes to walk 10 yards.”
Holborn ward Labour councillor Awale Olad said he was looking at issues raised in the petition.
He said: “The market has exploded in the last couple of years and is currently operating at almost full capacity.
“It is less diverse than it used to be – less antiques and clothing but more food and is now easily London’s most popular street food market.
Haydar Sal of Oasis Café
“This success has led to retail units feeling priced out as they have to pay both commercial rents and business rates and have to compete with street stalls who seem to be dominating the space.”]
Cllr Olad added: “I think we can find a solution to the problem that can address all the concerns. We should look at some technological solutions, potentially even putting up digital boards that help visitors navigate their way.”
A Camden Council spokesperson said: “The council recognises that work needs to be carried out at Leather Lane so that it can operate as one shopping area rather than as shopkeepers versus market traders; we see all businesses working together to benefit the local economy.
“The layout is currently under review. Once we have developed a plan it is our intention to engage with all stakeholders so that we can agree on a final layout.”