By Emily Koch
THE controversial Tesco store which was damaged in last month’s riots has re-opened.
Some campaigners are calling for a boycott of the Cheltenham Road store, which reopened yesterday following April’s violence when the premises were looted and vandalised.
But a steady stream of shoppers trickled in and out of the shop yesterday, the day after a public meeting where recent issues in the area were discussed.
A Tesco spokesman said more than 400 customers came through the doors yesterday.
Geoff Gardiner, who runs Fred Baker Cycles next door to the new store, said the store had opened without any trouble.
“Personally I think that it is good that the building is used – I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “Every member of my staff has shopped in there today.”
Mr Gardiner said he had spoken to Tesco spokesman Michael Kissman on the morning the store opened about the public meeting the previous evening.
“I asked if he’d felt he’d had a tough time of it at the meeting,” said Mr Gardiner. “But he said he hadn’t, because although there were lots of people being very vocal during the meeting about not wanting Tesco, lots of people went up to him afterwards and said they were pleased that the store was opening. It seems that the people complaining about Tesco are making a lot of noise, and saying the same things over and over again.”
The cycle shop – a family business that has been going for 40 years – had one of its window panels smashed during the riots last month.
Mr Gardiner said: “I don’t want another smashed window but I honestly don’t think there will be any trouble this time round. No one wants that.
“We don’t want more bad press about Cheltenham Road – it’s hard enough trying to make a living as it is. I’m hoping everyone will be fairly sensible. I have no problem with peaceful protest – with people holding up placards outside. I think it’s important that they should be able to do that.”
But Sam Allen, one of the people behind the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign said: “After the public meeting on Monday it is disappointing that Tesco continue to ignore a large majority of the community. In the last 18 months there has been no real public debate about the store, no proper, open conversation. It was clear at the meeting on Monday that our elected representative asked them to bow out – but he said that this would not be backing down to violence, it would be going because most people don’t want it.”
Ms Allen said there were no “definite” plans to protest now that the store had reopened.
She said: “Going forward I think we’d encourage people to boycott Tesco, and to get behind our campaign. We’re also thinking about opening a community-run food co-operative at some stage, and will need people’s help with that.”
One shopper, who did not wish to be named, had been into Tesco to buy milk and water on his way to work. He said: “I don’t mind shopping in Tesco. There are more important things going on in the world to worry about.
“Tesco is better than a derelict building, and they employ people, which is a good thing.
“They are nowhere near as bad as oil companies, arms companies and tobacco companies.
“If people don’t want it there, then they should just not shop there. It’s that simple.”
Tesco spokesman James Wiggam said: “Our staff were very pleased to be welcoming people through the doors.
“We had over 400 customers – it’s a good number.
“It shows that there are people who want to shop with us.
“We will continue our dialogue with the community; we feel we can be an important part of Cheltenham Road.”
Last night a security guard was stationed on the top of the store and a police van was parked opposite.