Caerphilly café owner feels “victimised” over council prosecution
A Caerphilly town café owner said he feels victimised by Caerphilly County Borough Council after it prosecuted him over a licensing issue.
Robin Starke, who owns Café Refresh at the top of town, was ordered to pay a total of £1,897.50 by Cardiff Magistrates’ Court for refusing to get a street trading licence for two catering trucks. The trucks sell food through pre-arranged visits to factories and offices.
The council argued that because hot and cold food was sold from the trucks, Mr Starke needed a street trading licence for each one. Mr Starke claimed that because he was visiting workplaces on a pre-arranged basis, and that food was sold on private property, he was classed as a roundsman.
Mr Starke said: “We give a service to small factories units and office blocks and it’s an invited service.
“We send out a flyer to prospective customers with a range of goods – all produced on our premises – and if we get a response from them, we go and visit them.”
Mr Starke bought the first of two trucks in 2008 to help his business cope with the recession and increased local competition. The trucks, he said, had kept the business afloat.
He likened his activity to that of Peter’s Pies, which often sells its products through vans visiting cafés, corner shops and chip shops with on the spot orders.
He said: “I am a responsible trader. I have had this business for seven-and-a-half years and I’ve always got on well with the council until this happened.
“I currently pay the council £9,830 in business rates and £834 a year with a refuse contract.”
He added: “I feel I’ve been victimised here and I cannot understand why.”
The case was originally set to be heard at Caerphilly Magistrates’ Court until a district judge transferred it to Cardiff – because the Café Refresh trucks visit the court where he was due to be prosecuted.
The judgement against Mr Starke hinged on a definition of roundsman centring on a case dating from 2001 in Brighton and Hove.
The judge sitting at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court ruled that because the purchases at the trucks were ‘chance sales’ then Mr Starke could not be classed as a roundsmen.
Mr Starke said his case highlighted the inconsistencies on how local authorities in England and Wales implemented the 1982 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
He said: “Each authority seems to do what they want, but it should be applied equally across all authorities. It is an issue.”
He has written to Caerphilly AM Jeff Cuthbert about the case.
Cllr David Poole, cabinet member at Caerphilly County Borough Council for community and leisure services, said: “The council’s street trading policy is clear for all to see and responsible traders know what is and isn’t acceptable. Unfortunately for Mr Starke, he failed to adhere to this policy, which has resulted in prosecution. A large fine such as this sends a clear message that all street trading controls must be followed.”