Mobile coffee business in Northamptonshire 'more expensive to run than a zoo'

Yusuf is looking at converting this taxi into a coffee firm, called The Grind Coffee Company, which will serve 'coffee in a cone' and Nutella espressos.
Yusuf is looking at converting this taxi into a coffee firm, called The Grind Coffee Company, which will serve 'coffee in a cone' and Nutella espressos.

A Northamtonshire man is questioning local authority logic after discovering that obtaining a licence to run a zoo is cheaper than starting up his mobile coffee firm.

Yusuf Bassir, 29, of Upper Heyford is currently in the process of starting up a mobile coffee business, which involves converting an old taxi into a bar. He intends for the business to operate mainly at events and festivals but on other days, the van would sell coffee in laybys around the county.

To start up the speciality drinks firm, The Grind Coffee Company, he would need to apply for a licence from every council in areas he wants to trade in. As a mobile business, he predicts he would need at least three of four licences, per year, at various costs for different districts in the county.

He said: "I contacted my local council, South Northamptonshire Council, who advised me that the cost would be £900 for one year.

"I then looked on Northampton Borough Council's website for trading in that area and the cost for some reason is split into days - which would mean more money for the council.

"During my research, I came across a video on YouTube about an ice cream van driver who has to pay several thousands of pounds a year to his local council, however other businesses with greater turnover and higher risk are paying a fraction of the cost and in some cases for free."

While researching licensing fees in Northamptonshire he noticed that the cost to apply for street trading consents is £900 per year - compared to a £115 pet shop licence, a £200 dangerous wild animal licence (lasting two years), a free-of-charge caravan site licence and a £400 zoo licence, priced for the year.

A spokeswoman for South Northamptonshire Council said: "The fee for a street trading consent issued by South Northamptonshire Council, set in 2004, is £900 and is based on processing an application as well as enforcement throughout the year.

"Some licence fees are set by statute and are out of the council’s control. With others, local authorities are able to set the charges to cover the cost of administering the licence and the accompanying enforcement regime which includes regular inspections."

With this in mind, Yusuf also looked into Northampton Borough Council licensing fees.

Where he noted running a horse riding centre would cost £98, a bingo premises £1,000, an adult gaming centre £1,000, a betting premises £600 and to run a zoo is £530, all priced for the year.

Councillor Anna King, the cabinet member for community safety and engagement, said: “A number of our licencing charges are set by central government, so these fees are consistent throughout the UK.

“The local fee policies set by the borough council, such as for street trading and private hire/taxi fees, are costed according to the various functions and regulations governing that licensing area. The policies are regularly reviewed and a cost exercise is undertaken to ensure that fee levels are set appropriately.”

He added: "I would need to spend in the region of £3,000 plus per year to sell some cups of coffee out of my vehicle to put food on my families table, however you can get a licence to operate a zoo for £400 or a gambling shop for £600 or a caravan site for free....where is the logic in that? So much for supporting your local small business.

"Businesses with much higher turnover and greater risk are paying far, far less for a licence than a small street trader."