Popular Bristol coffee van could be forced to move after council asks for slice of profits

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Mi Café Su Café has traded on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path in Fishponds since August 2020

A popular coffee van could be forced to move as Bristol City Council is hiking up the rent and asking for a slice of profits. The changes affect over 20 small businesses across the city who trade from mobile spots in parks and the Harbourside.

Mi Café Su Café has traded from a spot on the Bristol to Bath Railway Path in Fishponds since August 2020. The coffee van was recently asked to reapply for their pitch, as well as several other traders elsewhere in Bristol.

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Leona Dennehy, who runs the coffee van with her partner, said the council has asked them for much more money than they currently pay. She has started a petition to stop the council from taking a percentage of the turnover made by mobile traders.

Ms Dennehy said: “They changed the rules, and to our surprise when we opened the document to reapply to stay in our pitch, we saw that they firstly are looking for a lot more money for ground rent, and more importantly, they want a percentage of our overheads. As a small business, we will suffer greatly because of this.

“People are not going to have the money to give away a percentage of their earnings to the council, let alone pay up to £5,000 for ground rent. They want to know every bit about our finances, thus try to take from us. It’s an unjust attack on small business owners.

“We have worked hard to gain our loyal supporters. To have to move and restart would be a massive loss to the community, as well as a massive loss to us to try to start up again in a new location.”

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Mi Café Su Café currently pays £100 a month to the council for their pitch. In the form they were sent to reapply, the council asked for £250 a month “as a minimum”, according to Ms Dennehy. If another business bids higher than them, they could even lose their spot.

Traders were also asked to give a percentage of their annual turnover to the council, with an example given of 10 per cent. So far, over 500 people have signed the petition, with many offering comments in support of the popular coffee van.

One petitioner said: “Su Café has turned a bit of tarmac into a thriving community hub. The council needs to respect that hard work and valuable community asset, instead of replacing them with the highest bidder.”

Another added: “The coffee truck is a valuable addition to the area, and is well used by locals and visitors. The council should be encouraging small businesses, not putting hurdles in their way.”

Bristol City Council was asked to comment on the changes.

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