Leeds local pizzeria favourite at risk of closure

A popular Italian restaurant in Leeds risks closing down if Leeds City Council refuses planning permission for an outdoor seating area.  

Culto Italian Kitchen + Takeaway in Meanwood, a favourite among locals, is currently unable to operate as a sit-in restaurant because its small size cannot facilitate social distancing.

With business down 40 per cent, to maintain Culto’s viability owner Elvi Drizi, 34, has submitted plans to build an external decked seating area at the front of the restaurant, with space for 38 customers.

The proposals have received strong support from local residents – in just two days a post on Culto’s Facebook page showing the designs received more than 400 likes and 100 positive comments.

However, in a feedback email council planning officers told Mr Drizi his proposals are “unacceptable” and will have a “harmful impact” on the character of the area.

Culto Italian Kitchen + Takeaway Design of the new outdoor seating area at Culto

Mr. Drizi said: “After submitting plans I waited eight weeks for the council to respond and then they came back with a feedback email saying the designs do not fit in to the local area.

“When I asked people for their thoughts on Facebook though the response was fantastic. I never thought that in just two days we’d receive over 100 positive comments and no objections whatsoever from the public.”

Throughout the pandemic Mr. Drizi has not furloughed any of his 12 staff members, instead employees have been redeployed to the takeaway side of the business.

While an outdoor seating area will enable Mr. Drizi to hire an additional eight employees, without one, current staff risk losing their jobs.

No date for a final decision on the plans has been set yet, but the proposals have received more than 120 supportive comments on the council’s planning portal and not a single objection.

Culto Italian Kitchen + Takeaway Culto staff outside the restaurant

Patrick Kilduff, a Moortown resident and fan of Culto’s pizza, said: “It’s shocking that Culto could be at risk of closing.

“I have no idea why the council would be against a plan that saves jobs and supports a vibrant local business in such difficult times and would urge them to change their minds.”

Mr Drizi said: “This is not a makeover, it’s not something we want to do to say ‘look at us.’

“We’re doing this so that people can keep their jobs. We’ve been around for five years and every year we’ve grown and provided more jobs for people.

“We try to be good for the community too, during lockdown we made pizzas for the NHS and tried our best to give something back.”

Leeds City Council has been approached for comment.

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