Contracts to run the iconic Parliament Hill café on Hampstead Heath, together with the Golders Hill Park and Highgate Wood cafés, are up for grabs after Benugos pulled out of the deal in the face of rising public opposition.
Announcing the company's decision today (7 April) Benugo founder Ben Warner (pictured) said the company had reconsidered its position after listening to local residents and users of the Heath.
The City of London Corporation awarded the contract to run the three cafés to Benugos in March, including the Parliament Hill café, which saw the removal of incumbent 70-year-old Alberto D'Auria, triggered major, widespread public opposition across London. Some 28 bids are believed to have been submitted for the contract.
Social media pressure group Change.org organised a petition which garnered tens of thousands signatories within days of being launched, accompanied by rising negative comments on Twitter. Many opponents criticised the corporation for favouring "big business" over D'Auria's family run business.
"Having given this a lot of thought I, and my colleagues at Benugo, now firmly believe that the right thing to do is to step aside. We will also be withdrawing from the opportunity to operate the two other nearby venues within the North London Parks. We've listened, and are responding in the way we think is best for all. I would like to thank everyone who has engaged with us on this issue, and also, to wish all users of the Heath, and the future operators of these venues, the very best."
A City Of London Corporation spokesman said: "We understand the reasons for Benugo's decision and accept they have acted in good faith throughout.
"In view of public concern we will now re-issue the tender for running of the Parliament Hill, Golders Hill Park and Highgate Wood cafés to make sure we do what is in the best interests of the Heath and its visitors."
D'Auria and his family had run the Parliament Hill café for 33 years.
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