A TENANT who owes East Renfrewshre council more than £170,000 is set for court on Tuesday.
Marco Pacitti, who has been running Boaters Cafe in Rouken Glen Park for more than ten years, had his lease terminated on December 4 2011 — however he refused to vacate the premises.
Since, his bank accounts have been arrested and an inhibition has been put on all properties in which Mr Pacitti is known to have an interest to restrict any sale without prior consent of the council.
During a cabinet meeting this week, council leader Jim Fletcher said: “This guy has been asked to quit, and is refusing to quit.
“Legally he should have left in December, but I get the sense he feels like he has nothing to lose”.
Mr Fletcher attributes the reasoning for the council thus far allowing “unlawful occupation” to a willingness “to keep a valued public facility in place”.
However Mr Pacitti believes the council have used “bullying tactics” to try to get him out.
He said: “We offered the council a number of deals so they could get their money back. They agreed to let us install a gym on the premises in a bid to create extra revenue then once we had built it, they refused us permission to operate.
“That was the final nail in our coffin. The council know people are queuing up to get in this place so they want rid of us. We offered a number of deals to repay our debt but the council wouldn’t listen.
“They are willing to write off the £172,000 just so we’re out the way. We are a well-liked institution in the area so it is no wonder the council waited till after the election to take us to court.
“The council are meant to be encouraging small businesses but they showed no compassion for us suffering from a combination of the recession and bad weather”.
A council spokesman responded to the owner’s claims of “bullying tactics”.
He said: “The gym was set up without permission. But, we subsequently granted permission for it tied into the repayment of debts which he failed to do.
“We made an arrangement in October 2011 for repayment of the outstanding debt. Unfortunately he failed to stick to the arrangements which he had agreed to and that’s why in December we were finally forced to take the decision to terminate the lease”.
In 2007, Mr Pacitti spent £200,000 on refurbishment of the cafe, followed by a further £80,000 on a gym in 2010.
A total of 21 staff are employed in the cafe.
At the cabinet meeting, councillor Danny Devlin said: “I don’t understand how this has been able to go on for so long, if this was a tenant in rented accommodation, he would have been evicted years ago”.
Chief executive Lorraine McMillan added: “Action needs to be taken to ensure something like this does not happen again”.