Restaurateur takes on council in marquee row
Sam Harrison, the owner of Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith, has said that his business may not survive the winter after the council forced him to close the restaurant’s outdoor terrace.
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The restaurant opened in November 2019 beneath the Riverside Studios arts and media centre, and the outdoor marquee was erected during the pandemic when outdoor dining became increasingly normalised. Indeed, it was a trend witnessed on both sides of the Atlantic, though questions were raised about whether they might have actually increased the risk of infection.
Though that is one aspect of this period that seems set to stay in the UK, Hammersmith & Fulham Council opposed plans for it to become a permanent structure, a decision that Harrison claims could cost his brasserie £15,000 a week in lost trade, and force him to lay off his 50 members of staff.
It appears that one key point of contention was the number of noise complaints from local residents. Harrison told db: “We were already aware that there had been some complaints. There are residents who live directly above us, who claim they were never aware there would be a restaurant with an outside space. I firmly believe that in a multi use building setting like ours, businesses and residents have to work together and co-exist together.”
“On top of the marquee we have also been hit by the rail strikes and the loss of business. We will do the only thing I know how to do- we will keep fighting every day for our survival. It’s been like that since the day we opened,” he continued.
A Hammersmith & Fulham Council statement from 9 December decried the “misrepresentation” of the case, particularly in light of Harrison’s claim that he had been “unable to get a response from anyone” at the council (according to the statement, they met on 5 December), and accused the chef of “running a media campaign to get the original planning judgement reversed”.
The statement concluded by acknowledging that the restaurant has been through difficult times in recent years: “Hammersmith & Fulham recognises that since Sam’s Riverside opened in November 2019 it has faced Brexit, the pandemic, rampant inflation and a shrinking economy. These have contributed to the huge difficulties for all hospitality businesses. That’s why we have taken many measures to support the hospitality industry and will always go out of our way to try and help.”
Indeed, it appears that Harrison is also optimistic that the issue might be resolved: “On Tuesday 13 December I met with the leader of the Council and feel more positive that a suitable solution can be found that can work for the council, the residents and my business. That is all we have ever been asking for.” It remains to be seen what that solution will be.
He is not the only restaurateur who has been jostling with their local council over planning permission, with former Top Gear presenter and current farmer Jeremy Clarkson ordered to shut his entire restaurant by West Oxfordshire District Council.