The restaurant-coffee-shop chain Exki has announced it will close down its food preparation kitchen in the Rue de la Prévoyance in the Marolles district of Brussels, after a long history of complaints from neighbours.
The kitchen supplies all of the Exki branches in Brussels and surroundings, and is an example of what the industry calls a ‘dark kitchen’. In other words, a kitchen that has no direct contact with clients, as in a restaurant, but supplies large quantities of food to client outlets, like delivery services.
Dark kitchens are a problem for the local area: they usually take up a great deal of space, churn out food all day and all night and choke up local traffic with delivery vans and cycle couriers.
In the case of Exki, the problems included all of those – the kitchen is situated in a narrow one-way street in a very constricted part of town, and according to residents, vehicles serving the kitchen paid no attention to the one-way signs.
There was another problem: it appears the kitchen had no permit. Premises for the preparation of food require a permit from the local council – Brussels-City in this case. Exki had none. A permit might have been applied for, but the company has now decided to shut the kitchen down instead.
The kitchen has been in operation for a decade, but the problems only started to arise in 2018.
“There were never any complaints until 2018,” Barthélemy de Callataÿ of Exki told Bruzz. “We placed other extractors above the cooling installations, replaced a hood and an insulation wall, but for some neighbours, it was never good enough,” he said.
Some of the complaints landed by Bruxelles Environnement, who proceeded to carry out some noise tests in the neighbourhood. In three tests, carried out in September, November and March, the meters registered noise levels of more than 50 decibels, day and night. In city areas, the limit is 30dB.
As for the permit the company was given 45 days to apply, but chose not to.
“The kitchen will close at the end of this month,” De Callataÿ said. “We are transferring the kitchen activity to two of our Brussels restaurants.”
Local residents are relieved but are keeping a close eye on developments. “First see that they leave, and only then believe,” one neighbour said.