FoodSt Chiswick market founder welcomes decision to let the market continue with more stalls

Images above: Food St Market founder Richard Johnson, a stall at FoodSt Market

Founder welcomes expansion of market after what he describes as a “nasty personal campaign” against him

The founder of Chiswick’s Sunday street food market, entrepreneur Richard Johnson, has expressed his relief that he has been given a licence to operate for a further six months, and says he remains optimistic the market will continue to be a success, despite Hounslow’s licensing panel restricting the number of pitches to two thirds of what he had applied for.

Mr Johnson heard on Tuesday (23 January) that the FoodSt market was being granted a six month licence to trade on Chiswick High Rd on the fourth Sunday of the month, after a trial three month period during which time he successfully ran markets in October, November and December.

During the trial period the number of stalls he was allowed to have was restricted to 20, which was not enough, he says, to make a profit. When he applied to renew the licence, he asked if he could expand it to 62 pitches. The licensing panel have said he can have 44 pitches, taking into consideration the objections of a small group representing residents living close to Chiswick High Rd, and a restaurateur with an established businesss on the high road.

At the licence panel meeting last week several opponents spoke out against his application, opposing it on the grounds of the potential for litter, damage to Hogarth’s statue and competition to existing food businesses.

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Speaking to The Chiswick Calendar, Richard said he is determined to make the most of the situation and told us the conditions imposed would merely require a few administrative tweaks on his end.

“It just means I need to be clever about the way I use the generator. If I could run it as all gazebos, then I could make a profit. But I think the kind of market I want to run would feature food trucks; I think it’s an important part of what this movement is showcasing.”

The license allows for an expanded 44 pitches in Old Market Place, the car park area between Linden Gardens and Devonshire Rd, and an additional 10 pitches, subject to specific conditions, including the width of the licensed area. It also requires FoodSt to provide litter management.

The number of allocated pitches does not directly correlate with the number of food stalls there would be, as some need more space than others, especially if they are using a food truck. Richard acknowledged the challenges but stressed the significance of obtaining approval for the food market.

“The key thing is that we got approval; the Council saw the virtue of what we were doing after a nasty personal campaign.”

Image above: Crowds at the Food St Market in October

Richard Johnson says he hopes to work in collaboration with local businesses and address legitimate concerns

Reflecting on the successful trial period, (with no objections from Council officers who had monitored it), Richard highlighted positive feedback and the cleanliness they had achieved during the three autumn markets.

“The trial couldn’t have gone any better; there were glowing reports of how clean we left Chiswick. We left Chiswick cleaner than it was when we arrived in terms of litter, and we did ourselves credit.”

Regarding the opposition from the one local retauranteur who went to the licensing panel to voice her objections, (and requested not to be named), Richard said he would like to collaborate with her and change her perception.

“We could get them a gazebo, a burner, tables, and make all of that happen. We could do that for free and support them on social media,” he explained.

Richard sees the food market as an opportunity for businesses to expand their reach, which the Whistling Oyster on Devonshire Road and Ma Ma Boutique Bakery at the Hammersmith end of the High Rd have done.

“When Whistling Oyster had a stall at the market, that afternoon they had completely sold out because people had come and had the oysters at FoodSt and got excited at the prospect of a local independent fishmonger around the corner. It’s that kind of thing, it’s Ma Ma [Boutique] Bakery being discovered by lots of people and then selling out again.”

Looking ahead, Richard said there was still potential for expansion after the initial six-month period,if he can build on the “glowing” success of the trial period.

The next Food St Market will be on Sunday 25 February at Old Market Place, the car park between Linden Gardens and Devonshire Rd.