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OLYMPIC TRADE: Business owners worried by fresh competition
CONCERNS have been raised over businesses ‘cashing in’ on the Olympics.
Weymouth College has been granted permission to change its facility in St Mary Street over a three-week period during the Games.
Meanwhile, a former MasterChef finalist is opening up a pop-up restaurant for the Olympics.
Claire Hutchings, who reached the finals of MasterChef the Professionals last year, is taking over Cafe Vie D’Amour in Weymouth town centre with her partner Ibraheem Musleh.
While there has been support for the entrepreneurial endeavour of the new ventures, existing traders fear their business could be hit.
Speaking at the Weymouth and Portland Borough Council planning committee which approved the College shop’s change of use Councillor Peter Farrell said: “I am not sure what training students need to make sandwiches.
“I will support it, but I do think we will get some criticism because people will be buying these goods at undercut prices.
“I don’t think we should pass this with a cavalier attitude.
“It’s cashing in on the Olympics. I think it’s a really tenuous basis to say for these three weeks you need to train students – it’s a red herring.
“At the end of the day, there are an awful lot of patisseries, cafes and bakeries that have had to close down because of lack of business.”
The college’s application to the borough council for a change of use between July 23 and August 13 this year stated that the facility will serve sandwiches, hot and cold drinks and cakes.
An area of the building will also be used for the Citizens Journalism Project from July 25 until September.
But local business owners said they are worried what the decision could mean for them.
Frances Drake, owner of Antonio’s Cafe, opposite the facility, said: “We are not very happy about this. They are going to spend a lot of money and we think it could be done with a view to get planning permission in the long-term.
“Secondly, are they going to be paying for staff? Using students is cheap labour.
“The council is supposed to support local business and they’ve put us in an unfair situation.
“I’m not saying the Olympics are a bad thing, I just don’t think they will bring as much money as everyone is suggesting, and now we have this to contend with.”
Dennis Lackenby, owner of the Pasty Parlour, said: “Within 50 metres of the college building, there are 12 food outlets already. And now we have this one, subsidised by the college, to deal with.
“We are very concerned this will be permanent. They wouldn’t spend that amount of money of making it in to a cafe, getting their Food Hygiene Certificate, just for three weeks.
“It’s hard enough as it is. The council is taking a fortune from small businesses and they seem absolutely determined not to do anything to help us make it back.”
The mayor Coun Margaret Leicester said: “This will benefit the students and give them business practice. I can’t say I disagree with them cashing in on the Olympics because just about everybody else is doing the same.”
Students get work experience
JO Appleby of Weymouth College said: “We are distressed that the local traders are unhappy with these plans but the intention is that we will use students from the college so that they can gain much needed real life work experience, which will make them ready for when they leave college and seek employment.
“They will hopefully work in local outlets – run by local traders. “Any profits that are made by Weyco Services Catering – part of Weymouth College’s group of companies – from this activity will be re-invested in the student catering experience at the college and reflected in the prices in our canteen.”
She added that the college might wish to develop the building as a working café in the future to provide opportunities for students with special needs and learning difficulties.
The facility will be paying business rates for the three-week period.