Delight for Hastings business owner after being allowed to reopen shop

The owner of a kitchen supply shop in Hastings has been given permission to reopen his business after kitchenware was recognised as essential.

Chef’s Ware, in Queens Road, Hastings, received written permission from East Trading Standards to remain open during the second lockdown after days of wrangling.

Owner Charles Francis was told by police on Monday (November 9) he would have to accept the government’s definition that kitchen hardware was not hardware, and close.

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He argued his case and, on Wednesday (November 11), East Sussex Trading Standards accepted his case, saying the government’s guidance on what constitutes ‘hardware stores’ was not an exhaustive list.

Charles Francis outside Chef's Ware, in Queens Road, Hastings

In a letter to Mr Francis, Graham Wolstenholme, senior Trading Standards officer, said: “Whilst the government guidance page defines hardware as ‘Hardware (such as tools, builders’ hardware, paint and glass) stores’ the use of the words ‘such as’ indicates it is not an exhaustive list. In the absence of any definitions or interpretations within the regulations I agree with you that we should look to the common understanding of the term or dictionary definitions. In this case Collins NOUN 1. metal tools, implements, etc, esp cutlery or cooking utensils’.

“Taking this into account I am satisfied that your business falls within the classification of hardware and as such is a business permitted to remain open.”

Mr Francis said he had kept his business open despite the second lockdown as he thought kitchen tools and equipment were ‘unambiguously’ hardware.

However, his son Angus, who also runs the shop, was visited by members of environmental health on Friday (November 6) who disagreed and arranged an investigation.

Mr Francis was then visited at the shop by police on Monday morning and was again told to close. After carrying out some research that afternoon, Mr Francis decided to reopen on Tuesday morning.

This prompted a telephone call from Trading Standards who told Mr Francis he had to close ‘pending a decision’. During this time, Mr Francis was told he could sell items at the door as long as customers did not enter the store.

After Mr Francis submitted his position on Wednesday morning, Mr Wolstenholme rang the store and gave them permission to reopen, before sending written confirmation later in the day.

Mr Francis added: “Cooking is an essential of life, especially during lockdown (surely more essential than gardening). Cooking equipment is likewise essential. We do get a significant number of customers in urgent need of cooking tools due to sudden change of life circumstances, loss of equipment on moving house, loss, breakage etc.

“Distinct from clothing (which is essential but whose purchase can be delayed), items are needed immediately for food preparation, preservation and transportation (including to those in need).”