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Sudden canteen closure leaves bitter taste

HURT: Gary McFarlane outside Ladywood Health & Community Centre where he runs his canteen

A MAN who runs a popular canteen in a Birmingham community centre is facing a bleak Christmas and New Year after the city council, for no apparent reason, has told him he will have to be out by December 19.

For the past seven years Gary McFarlane has been renting the canteen at Ladywood Health & Community Centre, providing freshly cooked African Caribbean and English dishes that he makes from scratch daily.

But the 40-year-old father-of-two has been given just a month’s notice to leave the centre in St Vincent Street West and says he feels bitterly hurt and upset by the way he’s been treated.

“This is my livelihood and I’ve never had any trouble here. It’s an extremely well used and popular canteen. I just don’t understand it,” said McFarlane, from Northfield, whose outraged customers have started a petition to keep him. “I’ve barely been given 28 days notice and no explanation whatsoever. It’s a disgrace.

“I’m going to be without a job and for what reason? The city council at least owes me an explanation.”

When The Voice visited Mr McFarlane at his canteen we were told by officials that we were not allowed to talk to him on the premises and would have to conduct our conversation outside.

One customer, who did not wish to be named, said: “Gary’s food is excellent – from his curried goat to his fried chicken. He’s in the heart of Ladywood and we all rely on him for a freshly cooked hot lunch. We don’t know what the council is playing at.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We are dealing with a commercial issue between us and the individual in question. The matter is ongoing and we are looking to resolve it as quickly as possible for all concerned.”

Desmond Jaddoo, a community activist who has been supporting Mr McFarlane, said: “This is obviously a blow for the African Caribbean community in Ladywood. Irrespective of what the circumstances are with Birmingham City Council, it is clear that this is not the way to conduct business.

“It only goes to fuel the disaffection felt by the community in Ladywood, which as it’s well known, is one of the most deprived areas of the UK.”

He added: “An urgent letter has been sent to the Deputy Leader of the council requesting that the handling of this matter be looked into as soon as possible. This is basically closing down Mr McFarlane’s business with no consultation. What explanation is he meant to give the client base he has built up over the past seven years?

“This is totally unacceptable and a blow for the people of Ladywood who Mr McFarlane has served.”

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