Hot dog trader wins court battle against council
A MODERN day tale of David and Goliath saw a hot dog trader take on North Somerset Council in a courtroom - and win. Christopher O'Hara
A MODERN day tale of David and Goliath saw a hot dog trader take on North Somerset Council in a courtroom - and win. Christopher O'Hara appeared at North Somerset Courthouse county court after the council decided to sue him for £50 for trespassing.The unitary authority alleged Mr O'Hara had overstayed his welcome at the Italian gardens after he was thrown off his pitch after just 24 hours of trading following complaints.However, the 39-year-old issued a £23,000 counter claim against the council for a breach of contract. The council's solicitor, Emma Anderson, said Mr O'Hara had known his licence had been granted for a period of seven days and not, as he claimed, for three months.This was disputed by Mr O'Hara and his wife Rachael, who live in Axbridge, because they said they would not have spent so much money on equipment had they known how insecure the pitch was.Previously, Mr O'Hara, a father-of-four, had run a fireplace shop in Bridgwater which he closed to devote his efforts to the hot dog stand.District judge Brian Watson ruled in favour of the couple and awarded Mr O'Hara more than £8,000 in damages.The couple had negotiated a verbal agreement with Weston Town Centre Partnership manager Steve Townsend prior to opening Porky's hot dog and burger stand in February, but nothing was put down in writing by either party.But following complaints from High Street traders Mr Townsend gave Mr O'Hara notice to vacate his pitch, which he initially refused to do.In court, Mr Townsend said the hot dog stand 'did not contribute to the vibrancy of Weston's town centre' and that he had warned Mr O'Hara of spending so much cash when his licence was only for seven days. The Weston & Somerset Mercury picked up the story after Mr O'Hara began asking his customers to support him by signing a petition.District Judge Brian Watson said: "I accept the evidence of Mr O'Hara that he closed down his business and invested substantial funds into this business."He obtained a food hygiene certificate and arranged business insurance."I am satisfied Mr and Mrs O'Hara would have not done these things and invested that sort of money if their true occupation was a procurement of six or seven days."As town centre manager Mr and Mrs O'Hara were entitled to put their trust in him and he said they could pitch for three months."There were no valid grounds for terminating this licence, insisting to make him leave was a breach of contract for which he is entitled to compensation." Mr Watson ordered the council to pay damages totalling £8,668.05 minus the costs of the kiosk and tail lift van once sold and also pay £100 costs.The judge dismissed a claim by the council against the O'Hara's for trespass and an injunction to prevent them from returning.He also told Miss Anderson she would not be successful on appeal. Speaking after the hearing, Mr O'Hara said: "I expected to win but some of the things I have learned about the council I cannot believe.