IT has a perfect hygiene rating, does a brisk trade and has brought £180,000 into council coffers over its 17 years.

But none of that has been enough to ensure the existing Baiter snack bar can continue.

BCP Council put the contract for the kiosk out to tender as scheduled this year, even though the Covid crisis had left catering businesses everywhere trying to trade their way back to profit.

The existing operator, Nigel Milham, was told by email that the council had chosen someone else’s bid and he should leave the site by April 30.

Baiter snack bar operator loses council contract to run kiosk

He has accused the council of “destroying a long-established, family-run enterprise”. Since the kiosk is his full-time job, he will be without income on May 1.

It would not be the first time loyal customers have been left upset by the decision to pick a new operator for a catering outlet that someone else has built up.

In 2017, the former Christchurch Borough Council chose the US company Aaramark to take over Highcliffe Castle Tearooms, turfing out local businessman Sean Kearney after 17 years.

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In February 2020, Cecilia ‘Monica’ Brind, who had run Poole’s Whitecliff Pan & Grill mobile snack bar for 25 years, was ousted from the site. The council said at the time that the business was “heavily in arrears on rent payments” and that a short-term agreement had expired.

Customers praised the "best burgers in town" and said the operator was "lovely".

Popular burger van must leave Poole park after 25 years as council say 'rent went unpaid'

In the case of Nigel Milham’s takeaway kiosk and picnic tables at Baiter, the blow has been particularly painful because of the Covid crisis. Mr Milham points out that the council continued to demand full rent throughout the Covid lockdowns when he was unable to trade.

Bournemouth Echo:

Cecilia Brind was ousted from her Whitecliff snack bar spot

The same authority did not endear itself to seafront caterers last year when it told them not to ask for leeway with their rent bills, writing in underlined, bold type: “The council is currently unable to enter into rent free or rent holiday periods, with rents needing to be paid in accordance with the terms of your lease.”

BCP Council warns seafront businesses to pay their rent despite coronavirus

The council did not provide a spokesperson or comment to the Daily Echo, but its own website acknowledges the popularity of the Baiter operation.

“A mobile catering offer has successfully operated at Baiter Recreation Ground for many years. The existing licence to trade is coming to an end and a new licence is being offered with the expected start date of 1 May 2021,” it says.

On the web page devoted to Poole’s mobile catering pitches, there are indications that traditional builders’ tea and burgers may no longer be in fashion.

The council stresses it wants “innovative, interesting and healthy” food businesses.

Whitecliff is now opened to a variety of “street food” traders, with one pitch available on weekdays and two at weekends. Traders can operate for a maximum of a month before taking a break of at least seven days.

The site is marketed as a chance to sell “gourmet food in one of Poole’s premier park locations”. The pitches go under the banner of Street Food Corner – a name also used in Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens.

“Preference is given to those who use environmentally friendly packaging,” the council’s site says.

“The Street Food ethos is high quality food from good-looking, well-maintained vans or gazebos. We give preference to unusual or quirky vans or units.”

The council's website tells visitors: "Street Food Corner is a top choice if you're looking for great-tasting food that you can enjoy al fresco in Poole.

“The Street Food Corner ethos is all about great food on the go: fresh burgers, pittas stuffed with falafel and hummus, paella packed with succulent prawns or freshly grilled Bavarian bratwurst.”

The advert for the latest contract at Baiter – running for two years with an option for a third – said the catering should operate “from a good-looking, self-contained, branded vehicle”.

“A licence is offered to an operator to site one mobile catering kiosk for the retail sale of hot and cold food, coffee, tea, view-cards, minerals, sweets, light refreshments and ice cream only and no other items. A selection of healthy food options should be available as part of the menu offer,” it said.

Nigel Milham remains confused about why his application was apparently rated much lower than a new bid.

“I have challenged the procurement team especially on the scoring of my bid and continue to do so,” he said.

He claims the authority’s response included pointing out that he had not supplied a photograph and dimensions of his hut – despite the fact that council officials knew the site perfectly well and that one had said it “looks great” and “should be a blueprint for other concessionaires in the area”.

“The impersonal and bad timing of the process has now left my family and I in a needless and precarious financial situation at a time when there was light at the end of the tunnel and we are devastated,” he added.