Staff at Paggs arrived to find hut had been removed in middle of the night
The scene in South Park, Fulham, after the Paggs Cafe hut was removed
A Fulham cafe owner was left “gobsmacked” after council officers removed his premises from South Park – in the middle of the night.
Staff from the popular Paggs Cafe arrived at 7am on January 27 to discover that a shipping container “hut”, which for 12 years housed their kitchen and pizza oven, had disappeared.
Months earlier, Hammersmith and Fulham Council had served an eviction notice with a deadline of January 26, after which they would remove the structure.
Its owner, Teo Catino, submitted an application to Wandsworth County Court on January 25, disputing the council's decision not to renew his cafe's tenancy at the park's Pavilion.
His team hoped this would buy them time, and said they were shocked that the council removed the hut within hours of the deadline passing by carrying out a “midnight swoop”.
Mr Catino, 55, who also owns Il Pagliaccio restaurant in Wandsworth Bridge Road, said, “We had to be finished by the 26th but we had applied to the court, and it was my property.
“It was a cafe serving the community without making much profit. It's a shameful situation.
“My pizza oven and ice cream making machine were in there and we had tables and chairs and two potted olive trees. It's all been removed and we have not had any contact from the council saying how we can pick it up.”
Teo Catino pictured here at the now-closed premises
The council denies that received notice of any court application before the hut was removed.
A council spokesperson said this Tuesday, “We're currently reviewing all our park buildings to ensure that they support the wider needs of the community in the future.
“The owner of the Hut in South Park was given six months' notice before the contract expired on 26 January, including repeated reminders.
“As he informed us that he was having difficulties arranging for the removal of the Hut, it has been stored safely for him until he is able to arrange for collection.”
Mr Catino said he had been planning to use the hut to distribute free meals to local children in the weeks ahead.
“There are three schools nearby, we had hoped to distribute pizza and food from there because it's more Covid-safe than a place that's indoors,” he said.
“So the idea was that we would warm the food up in the hut and families could pick up food from the park.
“Instead we have been driving around and delivering them all day to day (1 February ).”
His latest row with the council comes after the Paggs Cafe team were refused a tenancy renewal on their main premises in the South Park Pavilion. Mr Catino claims that, in lieu of this, the council had previously told him he would be allowed to relocate to the cafe that has been built in the new Sands End Arts and Community Centre.
The council said the new centre will be run independently by residents as a local charity and is due to open later this year.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter
February 2, 2021