Restaurant owner is pig sick over market pitches wrangle

A RESTAURATEUR desperate to sell his fare on the St Albans farmers market has lost his pitch after only one day’s trading.

Gelsomino Picciuto, managing director of Kashu on Hatfield Road, lodged an application to trade on the weekly Saturday market shortly after his restaurant opened in summer 2008 but was told that he would have to wait three years for the privilege, even with regular pitches lying unoccupied.

Gels, who specialises in Modern European cuisine, said that he was staggered by the time period: “I couldn’t believe it when my wife Kristine and I were told about the never-ending waiting list. Eventually we were offered a last-minute spot on the monthly farmers market as an alternative, so we decided to grab the opportunity.”

Gels, who took part in last year’s St Albans Food Festival, said that he happily sold hog roast rolls, home made vegetarian lasagne and hot drinks at the farmers market on May 9 without a word of complaint from anyone. But nearly a month later and just days before the June 13 farmers market, Gels received a surprising letter from the district council’s markets and street trading manager.

Gels said: “The letter, which was dated May 27 but didn’t get here until June 4, said that we had breached a number of policies at the May market and, therefore, Kashu wouldn’t be offered a spot at the June market.

“The markets manager, with his office just a stones throw away from Kashu, was silent for nearly four weeks and then he springs that on us? I couldn’t believe it – we could have discussed any concerns well in advance.”

Among the reasons listed for the refusal was the fact that Gels took an extra 15ft up with chairs and tables – a clause given the all clear by the district council and one used regularly by other food traders, according to Gels – and Kashu’s decision to use a nearby power bollard as a source of power, leaving 20ft of trailing power leads behind.

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Gels, who has written a letter of complaint to the district council’s chief executive Daniel Goodwin, said that he had reached the end of his tether with the council: “I went to the June farmers market and to my disappointment our pitch was empty.

“With the launch of the St Albans festival and the Half Marathon going on that Sunday, it would have been a great opportunity for Kashu not only to trade on the market but also to recommend the restaurant to shoppers. With a third of the high street now empty and foot fall diminishing at the top end of town this is an essential marketing exercise for Kashu.”

He added: “I have attempted to be reasonable throughout negotiations and have gained no ground whatsoever with the officer in question. I really don’t know what more I can do and this whole situation is exhausting and extremely frustrating.”

Gels, who estimates a loss of several hundreds of pounds from missing June’s farmers market, also argues that market traders should be allowed to use the bollards as a source of power, as opposed to generators: “There is no rhyme or reason to not being able to use those bollards,” Gels said. “They are specifically there to be used by market traders and I have used these in the past at two Christmas markets. Tough times as they are, surely the council should be going out of their way to give us a helping hand?”

But a district council spokesperson said that at the farmers market, only two vans had permission to use the bollards as a power source: “This is because they have shown that they have special safety cables for outdoor use and park very close to the source so that the cable poses no danger. All other market traders comply with the instructions not to use this as a power source.”

She also explained the reason behind refusing Kashu a space at June’s farmers market: “The council wrote to the stall holder on May 27 asking them to confirm that, in future, they will comply with the council’s requests relating to the provision of power and obtaining prior approval for street furniture, etc.. The council has to-date received no such assurance, hence the delay in confirming the attendance at June’s farmers market.”