Nearly £70,000 owed to Enfield Council by former park café operator

Four park cafés were closed in September and legal action to recover the lost money is now being taken

Whitewebbs Cafe (top) and (bottom, from left) cafes at Trent, Oakwood and Town parks
Whitewebbs Café (top) and (bottom, from left) cafés at Trent, Oakwood and Town parks

The former operator of four park cafés across Enfield owed tens of thousands of pounds in rent to Enfield Council when they were forced to close two months ago, the Dispatch can reveal.

The cafés at Trent Park, Whitewebbs Park, Town Park and Oakwood Park all closed on the same September day when enforcement action was taken against the leaseholders following a “contract breach”.

Although four different companies were running the four cafés, Companies House records show they were run by the same person – Ozgur Celebi.

A Freedom of Information Act request to Enfield Council has now revealed that the total rent owed by Celebi’s companies to the civic centre was £69,541.51.

In the case of Whitewebbs Café, the amount owed was £32,499.87, which the Dispatch understands was roughly equivalent to three years of rent. At Town Park the rent owed was £18,375, at Oakwood Park it was £13,249.98, and at Trent Park it was £5,416.66.

Questions are now being asked about why this level of debt was allowed to accumulate before the council took action. Edward Smith, a Conservative councillor and the opposition group’s spokesperson for parks, told the Dispatch: “I supported the council’s action [to close the cafés] but I was not happy about how long it had taken.

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“This issue [of unpaid rent] had been allowed to run for some considerable time.”

Cllr Smith said there had been “a lot of churn” in senior jobs at the civic centre but that the new officer in charge of parks at the council “has taken strong action” that was “better late than never”.

The Ridgeway councillor added: “These park facilities are very popular and we don’t want to lose them, but they have to be run properly. We want new operators as soon as possible.”

Last month, the council issued invitations to tender to run the existing park cafés while also inviting caterers to submit business proposals for brand new cafés at Jubilee Park and Pymmes Park in Edmonton, plus Enfield Playing Fields.

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council will always do all it can to support local businesses, and we will work with them at times of difficulty to ensure contractual services continue to be delivered and so that there is a workable plan for them to pay their rent. This has included the period during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, we also have a responsibility to our residents and taxpayers which is why we have taken the necessary, legal steps to recover the money owed to the council. In this case, Enfield Council has taken the necessary steps at the appropriate time.”

Ozgur Celebi could not be reached for comment.

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