Traders sharing free food and drinks on Groenplaats. Credit: Nico Volckeryck
On Saturday, some businesses on the Groenplaats in Antwerp city centre treated passers-by to free fries, pieces of cake and drinks in protest against the increasing number of food and drinks stalls on the square.
The problem is that some of the stalls sell products, for example, wine or ice cream, right in front of the establishments on the square that also have these items on their menu, and that the local government does not take into account who is selling what, and where.
“It is not the first time that we receive complaints from entrepreneurs about the random placement of stalls,” Nico Volckeryck of the Neutral Syndicate for the Self-Employed (NSZ) told De Standaard.
“We have the impression that the administration of the city, responsible for the permits, does not investigate what effect the stalls have on the rest of the catering industry or the shops and we find that regrettable,” he added.
Volckeryck’s tweet reads: “Traders on the Groenplaats call attention to and campaign for smarter application of the law on mobile trade. Stalls placed directly in front of other catering businesses is not the best idea.”
Two hospitality business owners who also are at the head of the Groenplaats Association of Traders stressed that their main problem is not with the mobile traders, but rather with the lack of consultation with businesses on the square that are affected.
“We are all entrepreneurs trying to make money in these difficult times, but it would have been nice if the city had first consulted us about the type of stalls that would be set up there,” Armando Rocchi of Bar Basil and Vincent Schietekat of sandwich shop Panos said.
Volckeryck said that the group would like to ask the authorities to first look at what is already on offer in the neighbourhood and to adjust the itinerant trade accordingly.
“For example, on the Groenplaats there used to be a nut stall and a flower stall, which was a perfect complement to the catering outlets,” he explained.