Food fight in Whitecross Street Market

A SIMMERING row between struggling restaurants and a flourishing food market has reached boiling point as both fight for a slice of the lucrative lunchtime trade.

Two restaurants which claim they are being forced out of business by the food stalls at Finsbury’s acclaimed Whitecross Street Market are begging Islington Council to be allowed to run market stalls of their own.

But the existing market traders are fighting the plans – claiming that there is not enough custom to go round.

The bid has been launched by Italian restaurant Baracca and eatery Caf� Dolce.

Alain Cavedaschi, of Baracca, is desperate to have a stall in the heart of the market.

He said: “I have been here for 19 years and for the past two years, business has been getting quieter and quieter as the market has been getting busier and busier. No restaurant can compete with market stall prices.

“The only time our business is a little bit better is when the weather is poor. If it carries on like this, we are in danger of closing down.

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“It’s totally unfair. Anyone who has a restaurant in the street should also be allowed to have a stall. Why should existing businesses in the street lose out to traders coming from all over London?”

Yusuf Cifci, of Caf� Dolce, who has already been told he cannot have a stall in the market, wants to sell hot foods from a pitch outside his shop. At the moment, he is only allowed to sell cold foods from his forecourt.

In a letter to Islington Council, he said: “I have been running my business for the last eight years and given the fact that we are experiencing problems due to the credit crunch, and the fact that in the last two years the licensing authority has granted more than 30 hot food licences on Whitecross Street, I need to have my licence varied to be more competitive.”

Since 2006, when the authorities decided that Whitecross Street Market should focus on food, the weekday market has gone from strength to strength.

In 2006, there were only 12 occupied pitches, three of which sold take-away food. Now there are 49 occupied pitches – 35 of which sell food. But the success story has bred resentment among the street’s existing restaurateurs – and last year, they submitted a petition to Islington Council.

In a bid to appease the restaurants, the council banned any more hot food stalls from opening in the market.

Ironically, it is this rule that is now stopping Baracca and Caf� Dolce from opening their own market stalls.

Market traders want Islington Council to uphold the rule – and throw out the restaurants’ applications.

Mohini Vyas, secretary of the Whitecross Market Traders’ Association, said: “As traders, we don’t have restaurant premises – the market is our sole source of income. We only have a two-hour window on Mondays to Fridays to make our living. It’s our livelihood. It would be very detrimental to us for more food stalls to open.

“It would also take away from the market because there are already so many food stalls.

“I don’t think the restaurants have been undermined by the growth of the market because the footfall in Whitecross Street has also grown with the growth of the market.

“If I were a shop, I would take full advantage of that by promoting my business. The customers are there – all they need to do is go out there and do some promoting.”

Islington Council was due to consider Baracca and Caf� Dolce’s applications yesterday (Wednesday).

A council report said: “Preventing anyone from earning a living is never the council’s intention. Indeed, most London markets have witnessed a steady decline of traders over the years and refusing to grant a licence is never taken lightly. However the council also has a duty of care to all existing businesses and must acknowledge the need to ensure a fair balance and keep to agreements that are made.”