Coffee cart controversy: 15-year-old Merewether boy’s unapproved business venture shut down by council

They say kids don’t get out and about enough these days, neverdo anything off their own bat.

If that’s the case, thenDante Valentinis is proving a lot of people wrong.

FRESH BREW: Dante Valentinis inside his coffee cart at Bar Beach. A student at Newcastle High School’s Cooks Hill Campus – his teachers helped him develop the business idea towards the end of last year. Picture: Dave Anderson.

Theproprietor of a mobile coffee cart which had been operating atBar Beach weekend mornings, the 15-year-old go-getterhas had hisingenuitytemporarily curbed by Newcastle City Council (NCC).

His cart, modifiedfrom an old kitchen cabinet,became a hot topic over the weekend following a 1233ABCNewcastle interview.

The venture drewmixed reactionon social media, with the most prominent response comingfrom council.

“We encourage the spirit and initiative shown by the two Merewether lads … but sadly we have to shut down their venture for now,” NCC’scomment read. “Food safety regulations have forced our hand but we are happy to work with them and their parents on the need to meet certain health standards and obtain council approval. Come and talk to us, guys.”

The comment Newcastle City Council left on 1233 ABC Newcastle’s facebook page.

While council put a lid on it, many wereunaware of the preparation Dante had put in.

The energetic teen found thecabinet advertised for free, and after convincing his dad, Eddy,to go and collect it,he refurbishedit into a workable cart.

“I didn’t have any plans for it, I just built it as I went,” he said. “From there it just went on; I got a fridge for inside, a water heater, sinks, we’re getting a hot plate made up and we’ve got a generator too. We based it all around food vans.

“The idea was that I was getting really bored at the time and I needed to do something to keep myself from doing other things that I shouldn’t be doing.”

Since then, he’s been operating the van with his crew of staff – afriend, Luca,and two cousins –who heeven had uniforms made up for.

After questions were raised online over the legitimacy of his operation, Dante’s mum Suzanne spoke to theNewcastle Herald of the planning.

A student of Cooks Hill Campus – the annex of Newcastle High School – Dante had developed the business idea with his teachers towards the end of last year.

“He modified the whole cabinet and was hassling me every night to go to Bunnings,” she said. “He’s spent about $800-$1000 of his own savings on the cart.

SERVICE: Dante Valentinis in his coffee cart, named D’oro the Exploro. Picture: Dave Anderson.

“He’s just a very driven boy that wants to be out there. His school helped encourage him to build his own business, and through the school he’s gone and done his ABN, his tax-file number and been to talk to council multiple times.”

Coming from an Italian family, the coffee-cart is Dante’s latest enterprise in a growing list of crafty activities, having previously ran a neighbourhood fruit and vegetable business out of the family backyard, walked dogs for pocket money and bred chickens to sell to pet stores.

But councilsaid his latest operation waswithout approval and the venture was unable to continue as it was.

“Dante will need to undertake the same steps and process for approval that anyone would undergo to operate a street stall or mobile food van,”a NCC spokesperson said.

“[The cart]must be able to meet food safety standards and pass inspection.

“We are however on-board with the boys’ initiative and entrepreneurship, and fully support them in following the process for approval…”

An out-and-out junior entrepreneur,Dante plans to push on with the cart and overcome council’s hurdles.

The situation has similar parallels to the popular East Maitland street side cafe ‘The Bearded Cactus’ that was forced to close in 2015andrelocate to a permanent location.