The telephone box converted into a coffee stand
Published: 3 March, 2016
By WILLIAM McLENNAN
A COFFEE shop based in an iconic red phone box in Hampstead has been shut down by Camden Council just weeks after opening.
The business, set up by married couple Umar Khalid and Alona Guerra, had proved a hit in Hampstead High Street since it began trading in early February, but was forced to close last week.
After being featured in the New Journal last month, the couple were contacted by a series of news websites. But the publicity caught the eye of a Town Hall enforcement officer, who decided the couple would need to apply for a street trading licence.
Mr Khalid, who closed the coffee shop last Monday, said his landlord, Brighton-based Red Kiosk Company, had secured permission to run the phone box as a café and had not encountered the need for a street trading licence with phone-box businesses elsewhere in the country.
He said: “No other council has come back and said that you need a street trading licence, only Camden.
“They didn’t give me any warning. Straight away I had to cease trading and they told me that if I open tomorrow they will charge me £150.”
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq intervened on Mr Khalid’s behalf and told the council licensing team: “I am sure you will agree that his business idea is of clear benefit to the community, given the derelict state of many telephone boxes, so I would be most grateful if you could expedite this process and update Mr Khalid and me on the progress of his case.”
Mr Khalid, who quit his job as an accountant to open the café, said he had piled around £5,000 of savings into the business and had lost around £1,000 in trade since being forced to close.
He said: “They could have given me a temporary licence so I can carry on trading. I thought I was doing something noble, keeping this iconic thing going, but I’ve had no help.”
Mr Khalid is awaiting confirmation that his licence application has been approved by Camden.
Councillor Georgia Gould, cabinet member for economic growth, said: “We think Mr Khalid’s small business idea is a great one and we commend him on his initiative. As a council we have a strong record of supporting small businesses in Camden.
“However, as the local planning authority and street trading authority we have an obligation to ensure correct procedures are followed when it comes to street trading.
“It’s important business owners have the relevant licences and permissions in place before they commence trading. We hope to see Mr Khalid trading again soon.”