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Party at Parliament Hill Cafe as D’Auria family thank supporters for seeing off Benugo chain

PUBLISHED: 22:45 10 April 2016 | UPDATED: 23:09 10 April 2016

Alberto D'Auria thanks customers at a party at the cafe on Sunday    picture: Emily Banks

Alberto D'Auria thanks customers at a party at the cafe on Sunday picture: Emily Banks

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Hundreds of supporters gathered on Parliament Hill to celebrate as catering chain Benugo pulled out of its planned takeover of three much-loved Heath cafes

Esther Hyman celebrates the news at The Refreshment House, in Golders Hill Park,    picture: Polly HancockEsther Hyman celebrates the news at The Refreshment House, in Golders Hill Park, picture: Polly Hancock

More than 23,000 people had signed petitions against the City of London Corporation’s decision to hand over the leases for three cafes on Parliament Hill Fields, Golders Hill Park and Highgate Wood to the multi-million-pound catering chain, kicking out the families who have run them for decades.

But following a heated public meeting in Highgate on Wednesday, Benugo boss Ben Warner announced he was pulling out of the deal as “it was the right thing to do.”

City bosses will now begin the tender process again, with the existing families given a chance to resubmit their bids.

As a result a picnic protest planned for Sunday afternoon became a party to celebrate the news and to gather forces for the next round of the battle.

Joining Forces:  Alberto DAuria with Andrew Pazienti at the protest meeting     picture: Polly HancockJoining Forces: Alberto DAuria with Andrew Pazienti at the protest meeting picture: Polly Hancock

In an emotional speech, an overwhelmed Alberto D’Auria, 70, who has run Parliament Hill Cafe for 33 years, thanked campaigners.

His son Alfonso issued a new call to battle saying: “Stage one is over. We are just happy to be here and carry on doing what we are doing. Thank you everyone. If you don’t want it to change, fill in our questionnaire.”

Petition organiser and family friend Zoe James said: “We just want to say a massive thank you to every single one of you. We have still got a lot to do. We have overcome our first hurdle and now we are going to push forward and keep it with Alberto.”

The D’Auria family handed out free food and glasses of Prosecco to supporters along with questionnaires about the future of the cafe.

Customers of the Refreshment House, in Golders Hill Park, were also at the celebration along with its proprietor Andrew Pazienti whose family has run the cafe for 47 years.

Esther Hyman, whose sister Miriam died tragically in the 7/7 terrorist attacks, expressed her joy that Benugo had pulled out when she visited The Refreshment House on Saturday.

Miriam’s funeral was held at the cafe which she adored and every year family gather there to remember her.

Miss Hyman said: “My family is delighted that we will be able to carry on paying our respects to Mim in a place that she loved on the anniversary of the 2005 London bombings. We just hope that the families who run the Heath cafés will be able to stay on now.”

Andrew Pazienti, of the Refreshment House, said: “I am overwhelmed. It is only just sinking in. Now we must do all we can to make sure we win the franchise.”

Watch Alberto D’Auria’s emotional thank you speech here.


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