SIFT was horrified to learn yesterday that the family-run, community tea room, Parliament Hill Café, has been told it has to close imminently. The City of London Corporation has awarded contract for the building to swanky coffee chain, Benugo, instead.
For 33 years, the much-loved Parliament Hill Café on Hampstead Heath has been run by the same family. It offers hearty and simple food at affordable prices to the millions of visitors who frequent the park every year.
Two weeks ago, though, the D’Auria family were told they have until 8th May to get out.The City of London Corporation, which runs the Heath, have now decided on a whim – without consultation – to award the contract to high-end coffee chain, Benugo.
In response, Alberto D’Auria has offered to pay more rent. But £90,000 plus commission, up from £80,000, clearly isn’t enough for the Corporation. Benugo, surprise surprise, has outbid the community café.
Just to paint the prospective picture, Benugo already runs cafés in Regents Park, the V&A and the Barbican to name a few. Also, a company called Searcy’s, which runs another Heath café atKenwood House, is owned by none other than the same parent company as Benugo’s.
What’s worse, Benugo is soon to open cafés right round the corner from Hampstead Heath too, in Golders Hill Park and Highgate Wood.
That’s just what we want, isn’t it? For every place in North London to look exactly the same? For every place in North London to look exactly the same! For every… you get my drift.
It doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom though. Thankfully, we can trust the locals to get angry and start apetition. Hampstead resident Zoe James has already got 11,000 signatures – and if every SIFT reader signs it too, that will add, well,a lot of signatures…
But we need to act quickly! James’ resistance committee is planning to present the petition on Monday 4th April to the City of London Corporation, and a public meeting is planned for Wednesday 6th at Highgate Civic Centre.
As one resident put it on Twitter, he’s upset because the café “represents an authentic unpretentious shabbiness and character that big business thoughtlessly extinguishes with abandon.” He’s saddened that Hampstead Heath, “supposedly a sanctuary from harsh urban realities, will now be an outpost for a corporate enterprise… The City of London makes a fast buck; the people lose the real value.”
Even celebrities are urging people to show their support. As food criticGiles Corenrightly pointed out, if Benugo takes over, “you may as well have a McDonalds”. Right on, Giles.
Sign the petition here.
The café is located at:
London NW5 1QR,
+44 20 7485 6606
1) Alberto d’Auria, taken from change.org
2) Parliament Hill, Wikipedia Commons
3) Copyright Julian Osley