A COFFEE shop manager has spoken out after shopping centre bosses banned him from having outdoor seating.
Darren Squire, manager of Muffin Break, said the decision by ING, landlords at the arc shopping centre, to strip him of the right to have 12 seats outside could cost the business up to £30,000 a year.
Mr Squire was told he would have to remove the seating after ING held a meeting last Thursday.
“I just want to be on a fair playing field,” he said.
“Carluccio’s and Costa have got outside seating, even other places in town have and I can’t.
“Why should the little guy get bullied?”
He said that ING have given no reason for the decision.
However, he claims that his initial requests for seating in 2010 were turned down because Costa Coffee have a clause in their contract excluding other outlets from having outdoor seating.
Mr Squire added that the outdoor seating was often used by wheelchair users and smokers.
Regular customers at Muffin Break expressed their disappointment at the decision.
Kathy Richardson said: “If they took up half this area, it would be understandable but these little tables don’t create a problem.”
Patricia Manchester said: “It’s not fair if a small business can’t do it but the big business can do it.”
Mr Squire was told he had five days to remove the seating last Friday.
He has now started a petition to have them reinstated.
A spokeswoman for the arc said its ‘hands were tied’ in this situation.
“Outdoor seating is not part of the leasing agreement with Muffin Break, therefore the centre are at present unable to allow them to have permanent seating outside the establishment,” she said.