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My Village Café owner says rent hike will lead to more chains in Camden Town

Fans of Sarwar Hamarash's independent café fear a coffee chain will soon move in

11 May, 2017 — By William McLennan

Sarwar Hamarash at the My Village Café in Chalk Farm Road

THE owner of an independent café who is facing a threefold rent hike is set to take his landlord to court – in a case that is being billed as small traders defending the high street from corporate chains.

Sarwar Hamarash, who has run My Village Café in Chalk Farm for the past 10 years, is preparing for a legal battle over a £40,000-a-year rent hike. He said he would be forced out by the increase, clearing the way for a chain coffee company to move in.

Mr Hamarash said he could not stand back and watch as Camden Town is “divided between a few private landlords” who, he said, plan to “raise all of the rent across Camden, making it impossible for independent small business owners to survive”. An online petition backing Mr Hamarash has received more than 1,700 signatures in the past week.

One customer said: “London is being destroyed slowly. And as much as I love a good Pret, it’s a pamphlet of dining compared to The Odyssey of nourishment My Village Cafe gives us.”

Mr Hamarash, an Iraqi Kurd who moved to Britain in 1998, converted the former Offstage Bookshop into the café in 2006, with the help of his family. “It was in a horrible condition, it took us six-and-a-half months to build from scratch,” he said.

Mr Hamarash said he wanted to create a “proper community café”. His old landlord sold the premises beneath his feet last year and the new owners, property firm Corner 12 Ltd, based in Harmood Street, asked for the annual rent to increase from £22,500 to £65,000, he said. He appointed his own surveyor, who has valued the market rent at closer to £50,000, and a tribunal is expected to hear each side before making a judgment.

Corner 12 Ltd did not respond to requests to comment.

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