Victory for beloved Gosforth coffee vendor as park bosses U-turn on 'murky' plan to turf him out – Chronicle Live

Jonny Graham thought he would be forced to leave his pitch in Gosforth Central Park, but has been given a 12-month reprieve after an outcry from his loyal customers
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A beloved Gosforth coffee vendor has won a battle to keep his pitch – after a U-turn from parks bosses who had threatened to turf him out.
Jonny Graham has become a popular fixture in Gosforth Central Park since his coffee cart first arrived there three years ago. The 53-year-old, who delivered essential items to people during Covid lockdowns and even opened on Christmas morning at the request of his loyal regulars, has been praised for going “above and beyond” for the community.
But park-goers were left dismayed when it emerged that Urban Green Newcastle was not going to renew his licence to trade once it expires at the end of September. Jonny had been told by the charity, which was handed control of the city’s green spaces by Newcastle City Council in 2019, that it was planning to replace him with its own pod cafe.
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But, amid consternation from locals and after the Chronicle questioned Urban Green on why he was being axed, the well-known trader has now been given a 12-month extension. Jonny, who was also granted a reprieve by Urban Green last year following an outcry from customers when his licence first came under threat, said the prospect of losing his livelihood had given him “sleepless nights” and that the U-turn was a “big relief”.
He told the Chronicle: “Why stop something that is doing so well? I make a small profit here, it keeps me busy, and it is something the people really value.”
Regular customer Michael Gilbert, who walks around the park every day, was full of praise for the “jovial and generous” vendor and vowed not to support any replacement business. The 71-year-old accused Urban Green bosses of being “totally thoughtless and uncaring”, while fellow van regular Maureen Hudson added: “He has built up a real community hub here, I have made friends in this park because of him. He takes an interest in people, he always helps if you need him, he has your coffee ready for you before you even get there.”
Shirley Turnbull, aged 75, said: “He goes above and beyond for people. Everybody here knows him and he gets on with everyone – dogs, kids, and everyone else. It will not be the same if he is not here.”
Prior to Urban Green’s reversal, Gosforth councillor Colin Ferguson had demanded clarity from parks chiefs about why Jonny, from Northumberland, was earmarked for removal. He said: “The whole process is murky and it is not clear why he is being treated this way.
"If he was getting clear answers from Urban Green then it would help, but I have seen no evidence of that. It is a real shame because Jonny has carved out a really special niche in the park. To see him treated this way is deeply unfair and I want to know why Urban Green is doing this.”
An Urban Green Newcastle spokesperson said: “We’re always looking for ways to improve people’s experience of visiting Newcastle’s parks, and one of the areas we’re currently looking at is how the buildings are used, and how we can improve facilities for park users. As part of this process, we’re reviewing all commercial licences across Newcastle's parks to ensure the current offer aligns with future plans, and park users continue to receive the best possible service.
"Following an open call out for concession operators, we have already extended Jonny’s contract in Gosforth Central Park once. We have agreed with Jonny to extend his contract again to maintain a consistency of service for all park users whilst we continue to develop longer term plans. We’d like to thank Jonny for all his hard work and the contribution he makes to the visitor experience at Gosforth Central Park.”
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