Whitby chippy in eye of the storm Published: 08 September, 2006
AN East Coast fish and chip shop, once highly praised by from celebrity chef Rick Stein, is at the centre of a major rumpus – all because it is getting too many customers.
Visitors to the Magpie cafe on the sea front in the fishing port of Whitby have been told they could face fines in a long running dispute that threatens to get as heated at the restaurant’s cooking oil.
Ian Robson, owner of Whitby’s Magpie Cafe, was told by police his customers could get fixed penalty notices if they were deemed to be obstructing the road. His shop neighbours, all local traders, claim that customers waiting for a table are obscuring the front of their shops, causing a drop in trade. Mr Robson said the dispute has been running for a couple of years.
The Magpie Cafe has become something of a local institution and attracts fish and chip lovers from across the country. It opened just before the Second World War and now attracts more than 1,000 customers a day at the height of the tourist season and has recently been extended to accommodate 130 customers. It is situated in an area where visitors can still see traditional fish smoking and pick up the smell of kippers as they walk among the holiday attractions.
Mr Robson said he was looking for a reasonable solution, but none had yet been found. He added:
“We have had this situation for a long time , but it has got worse over the last year or so, but I don’t know what set it off. In an experiment in conjunction with the highways authority we started to operate a system where people queued on the other side of the road and were then brought over by a member of staff when their table was ready. “
He added: “But on Bank Holiday Sunday we had a couple of instances of near-misses with cars so we thought it was safer to go back to the old system. But then the police arrived soon afterwards and that was that.” The police warned that if the queue was not moved back fixed penalty notices would be issued for obstruction.
“We have had queues for the last 30 years to my knowledge but it seems to have become a problem in the last year for some
reason,” said Mr Robson. He maintained that while they were queuing, customers were able to see what was inside other shops which might actually be good for their trade.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “A fixed penalty ticket is an option available to the police, but we are working with the management of the Magpie Cafe, the local highways authority, Scarborough Borough Council and other partner agencies to achieve a more acceptable and permanent solution. “
A spokesman for the North Yorkshire Council agreed that queues outside the Magpie, which is by Whitby’s fishing harbour, were not a new problem
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