A STORM is brewing after a street trader caused a stir in the manager’s office at a major coffee chain.
Panagiotis Bantzis, 54, wants to set up a kiosk on Middle Meadow Walk and wrote to Starbucks’ Quartermile outlet, as well as nearby firms, to obtain permission.
The consultation letters were sent as part of an application for a street trader’s licence, which will be considered by councillors next week.
While neighbours had no issue with the proposal, Mr Bantzis said he was stunned when Starbucks said it would only agree if he pledged not to sell coffee.
Starbucks – the world’s largest coffee chain with global revenue of more than £9 billion – has 19 cafes across the Capital.
The company was recently at the centre of controversy after it emerged executives had paid only £8.6 million in UK corporation tax over 14 years.
Mr Bantzis, who moved to the Capital from his native Greece earlier this year, said: “It’s unfair – I would like to sell coffee and I don’t know why they do not want me to sell it.
“Starbucks would be far away from the kiosk. I disagree with [what they have told me]. I think Starbucks customers go there for different reasons.”
Mr Bantzis said his new kiosk would offer Greek-style coffee, juice and loukoumades, a traditional pastry made of deep fried dough soaked in sugar syrup or honey and cinnamon. He insisted the business would be situated a good distance from most of his competitors and was unlikely to rob them of customers.
“Starbucks is about social coffee – a kiosk on the street is different,” he said. “Starbucks and I would have very different customers. What I will be selling is just doughnuts, juice and coffee – that’s it.”
Despite the objection – which came from the branch manager – it’s understood Starbucks does not have a policy to oppose such applications.
And Mr Bantzis’ bid has been backed by business leaders, who said it was “disappointing” to learn Starbucks was trying to stifle competition from local firms.
Gordon Henderson, senior development manager for Scotland at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The provision of coffee and snacks is a competitive market in Edinburgh – we all know that. It’s a shame that the big guys are not prepared to compete the same as everybody else.”
Councillor Melanie Main, Green member for the Meadows and Morningside, added: “It is telling that Starbucks, alone amongst nearby businesses, have not seen fit to support this small local trader.
“Our local traders pay their fare share in UK tax and rightly deserve our support.”
A Starbucks spokesperson said: “Edinburgh has a vibrant coffee market and we think there’s room for everyone.”