By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter
The owner of a popular Fulham cafe claims he is being unfairly kicked off his premises in South Park.
Teo Catino, owner of Paggs Cafe, also claims Hammersmith and Fulham Council reneged on a verbal promise made to him in a meeting with members of staff, that he could instead run a cafe at the new Sands End Arts and Community Centre.
By January 8, his tenancy at the Pavilion building in South Park will come to an end and they will have to vacate.
He says the council is refusing to renew his tenancy, meaning he will have nowhere in the park to run his cafe, which is loved by Fulham’s dog walkers.
The council has confirmed its current contracts with the cafe operator in South Park come to an end this month.
It says the new Sands End Arts and Community Centre will be run independently by residents as a local charity and make its own catering arrangements for the community once it opens later this year.
For 10 years until 2019, Paggs Cafe sold pizzas and paninis from a shipping container cafe in the centre of the park.
Mr Catino has been told he will also lose permission to use this site from January 25.
The 55-year-old, originally from Italy, set up an online petition calling on the council to show mercy to his cafe, which has gained more than 500 signatures.
“The council told me we were going to move to the Sands End Community Centre,” said Mr Catino, who also owns Il Pagliaccio restaurant in Wandsworth Bridge Road.
“But they changed their minds and now they want to run the cafe themselves.
“I’ve had to make two people redundant and put everything in storage. I’m going to lose several thousand [pounds] from this.
“I feel very distressed. I hope something will change but it doesn’t look like it will.”
The Parsons Green resident said the council told him in 2018 that he would be able to relocate to the new Community Centre, and that this was the reason he agreed to move his cafe to the Pavilion.
However, Mr Catino – who runs the annual Paggs Cup children’s football tournament in South Park – admits he was never given this assurance in writing, meaning he would be unable to take legal action.
Paggs was also broken into in September last year, and vandals caused “thousands of pounds” of damage to the cafe’s equipment. No arrests were made.
Mr Catino claims the council would be unwilling to allow Paggs to run in addition to the council’s own cafe at the Community Centre, because they “don’t want the competition”.
He added: “Personally, it feels a shame. I feel sorry about it. It’s my local park. I love the community. I have been living here for over 30 years. I know a lot of people, it’s a community cafe.
“It creates a community feeling. People come here to talk to each other and say hello during their walk. We have a lot of loyal customers.”
A council spokesperson said: “The current contracts with the café operator in South Park came to an end this month.
“We’re currently reviewing all our park buildings, including the Pavilion in South Park, to ensure that they support the wider needs of the community in the future.
“Given the current lockdown, it’s not advisable for residents to be congregating or spending longer in local parks than necessary.
“The new Sands End Arts and Community Centre in South Park will be run independently by residents as a local charity.
“It will make its own arrangements for the community once it opens later this year.”
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