THE final nail has been hammered in the coffin of a Portsmouth cultural hub as it’s set to be stripped of its licence – and its tenants have been threatened with legal action if they don’t leave.
Council solicitor Jade Snoxell has issued Art & Soul Traders a letter demanding it remove a marquee outside The Lodge Arts Centre and Park Cafe, in Victoria Park.
The council is trying everything to get rid of us, it’s all underhand. It’s what we have been used to for 10 or 11 years now.Lodge Arts Centre and Park Cafe operator, Mark Lewis
Due to it suffering damage following ‘recent inclement weather’ and having not been maintained properly, Ms Snoxell says, the cafe’s licence to have a marquee and put on outside events will be taken away as of November 30. The operator has been told any of its property will be removed if found outside, including the marquee, used for fundraising, charity, birthday and wedding events, after that date. And in a further blow, Art & Soul Traders has been told to leave the centre for good on February 5 – or the council will ‘take such action as it deems necessary to obtain possession of the property’.
‘Should this involve issuing court proceedings, the city council will seek any legal costs in taking such action from yourself including solicitors costs, court fees and enforcement costs,’ Ms Snoxell said.
The council served Art & Soul Traders notice this year as it wants to use it to help disabled adults get back into work and learn new skills.
It comes despite campaigners highlighting the good work of Art & Soul Traders and how it provides services the council wants anyway.
Campaigns led by Art & Soul Traders director Mr Lewis and Lib Dem supporters have seen thousands signing petitions calling for a rethink of the strategy.
Mr Lewis said he was dismayed by the council’s attitude and persistence to ‘drive him out of business’.
He said: ‘The council is trying everything to get rid of us, it’s all underhand.
‘It’s what we have been used to for 10 or 11 years now.
‘The council has been trying to put us out of business in every way possible – it’s playing games.
‘We pay the council’s wages, it is not the landlord.
‘The people of Portsmouth are the landlord and tenant.
‘We say the truth and the council doesn’t like us saying things like that.
‘But this is just another threat. It’s saying; “we are in control, and if you don’t do what we say, this will happen.’”