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Gloucestershire Business News

Stay indoors, restaurant told

Amid warnings that the entertainments and food sector is being decimated by inflation and rising energy costs, a Chipping Campden restaurant has slammed officials who've told the business it can no longer rely upon survival measures taken during the pandemic.

Michael's Mediterranean, a popular Greek cuisine venue in the Cotswold town's High Street, set up chairs and tables for al fresco dining on the adjacent Memorial Green during the pandemic, having been granted a temporary license.

But after applying to make the seating permanent earlier this year, the owners have now been refused by the Chipping Campden Town Trust.

In criticising the decision, co-owner Sarah Alexiou has called for more explanation and pointed out that the restaurant's open-air seating featured on the cover of the Chipping Campden Town Guide for 2022.

Ms Alexiou said: "Surely the Trust wishes all the businesses of Chipping Campden to survive and offer them support to succeed in every way possible?"

A statement from the Trust said: "On the recommendation of the charity commission, legal advice was sought about whether this continued use can be possible, under the terms of the Charity's Deed. Based on the subsequent clear legal advice, which looked at a range of issues, and after due consideration of the facts, nine trustees voted against the granting of a licence with one vote in favour.

"This decision has caused disappointment to some, but equally other residents don't wish to see the memorial green used for commercial purposes."

Supporters for the chairs to stay on the green have amounted to 80, while MP for the Cotswolds, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, has reportedly intervened with a direct approach to the Trustees.

The MP said: "I also had a light lunch sitting at one of their tables outside when it was permitted during the lockdown. I think this dispute is very sad."

The plight for Michael's Mediterranean echoes the difficulty faced by Cheltenham's Pump Room Café, which has been forced to seek planning permission  for serving customers in an orangery on the side of the Pittville Pump Room as a contingency during the pandemic.

The Cheltenham Trust opened the café in summer 2020, under temporary permitted development rights and quickly became popular with locals and visitors alike, helping to sustain the Pump Room through the challenges of Covid. However, the council removed the temporary development rights in autumn 2022.

The Trust sought to trade for a further 20 months and offered a range of options to offset concerns raised by the council and Historic England.

On September 30 this year, Cheltenham Borough Council wrote to all businesses which had installed temporary structures to ask them to remove them - or apply for planning permission to keep them.

Punchline says: We're watching so many sorry tales of financial torture come in from throughout Gloucestershire as hospitality and leisure fights for survival against what look like ever-tightening odds. This sector is on its knees. Isn't it time for all officials who interact with it to be pragmatic and recognise that without the hard work of these people and the broader economic life they bring, we will all suffer?

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