TWO local businesses, the Stay Grounded coffee van and the Mamma Santos Portuguese Street Food truck, can continue operating at the Sale Dan Murphy’s carpark for the time being, after an order to move them on after last week was revoked – twice – following a social media storm.

Dan Murphy’s head office confirmed to the Gippsland Times on Wednesday that consultations with both vendors are continuing.

Dan Murphy’s head office had originally made the decision to shut down the operations of the food trucks after Gippsland Hotel owner Brett Steele made inquiries about the vendors, which are close to his business.

Dan Murphy’s Sale management informed Stay Grounded owner Toni Hiskins that she and the Mamma Santos food truck would no longer be allowed to operate at the carpark after this week. Mr Steele said he was not targeting Stay Grounded or Mamma Santos, and claimed he didn’t ask for them to be shut down. Dan Murphy’s head office declined to comment on discussions they had with their Sale store or the Gippsland Hotel.

Stay Grounded had operated in that spot for over a year and her many loyal customers kept her very busy. The tremendous growth had allowed Ms Hiskins to purchase a van, with the intention of bringing her popular coffee and breakfast options to more events.

Stay Grounded employee Andy Weekes said they had no alternative location in mind for the business if they had to move on.

“Dan Murphy’s (Sale) were extremely happy with us and we’ve never had a bad review,” he said.

With there being no plan B for her coffee van to operate from during the week, Ms Hiskins set up a petition at her site to allow her to stay.

Gippsland Hotel. Photos: Stefan Bradley

Mr Steele told the Gippsland Times he acted to have the decision changed the moment he heard Stay Grounded and Mamma Santos were going to be told to go elsewhere.

“It’s all been reversed. Dan Murphy’s (head office) allowed them to stay and I’ve told Dan Murphy’s that I fully support them staying on site,” he said.

“And I made that decision (Tuesday) morning, before that Facebook thing erupted.”

Mr Steele was surprised that Dan Murphy’s head office had acted so quickly to have them removed in the first instance. The head office declined to comment on this.

Ms Hiskins and Mr Weekes had a meeting on Tuesday morning with Mr Steele, and he agreed to contact Dan Murphy’s head office to get the decision revoked. But without confirmation from the head office, the official position was that Stay Grounded and Mamma Santos would move on.

Unbeknownst to them, an anonymous user posted an image of the petition at 9.34am to the Sale 3850 Facebook group shortly before they had their meeting. Ms Hiskins and Mr Weekes both deny posting the image, which ignited a social media backlash against the Gippsland Hotel.

As the social media storm brewed, Stay Grounded withdrew the petition, which had been signed by at least 60 people. Gippsland Hotel owners Brett and Katie Steele released a statement on their Facebook page.

“As a family-owned and operated business, we have significant overheads, and during our lunch trade, we observed several mobile food vans parked near our venue. We approached Dan Murphy’s head office directly, seeking information about allowed trading times and permissions for food vans in the area,” the statement read.

“This was purely to gain a better understanding of the situation, and we did not intend to harm any business.

“During our conversations with Dan Murphy’s head office, we learned that they made the decision to remove all food vans from the parking area, based on their policies. We want to clarify that it was not our intention to influence this decision directly, but rather to inquire about the guidelines in place.

“Earlier today, we had a constructive meeting with the owners of the coffee van in our venue. We expressed that our issue is with Dan Murphy’s local store policy allowing “food” vans to trade near our store, and we understand that the van owners are not responsible for this decision. They simply seeked a location to place their van.”

By Tuesday afternoon, head office revoked the decision, which was understood to be indefinite.

Stay Grounded thanked Dan Murphy’s Sale, as well as their customers and the wider community.

“Dan Murphys (Sale) has continued to stick by me and I am truly touched by their ongoing support,” Stay Grounded wrote on Facebook on Tuesday night.

Customers rallied around Ms Hiskins on Wednesday morning, who just wanted to get back to business. She said she hoped that people would continue to support the Gippsland Hotel, and had no ill will against them.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support, but not loving this drama and attention,” Ms Hiskins said.

“I don’t want any other person or business to be affected or bullied by all this.”

But on late Wednesday afternoon, Stay Grounded told the Gippsland Times that Dan Murphy’s head office changed their mind again, and they wouldn’t be allowed at the carpark after Friday. Mamma Santos confirmed the same had been said to them. The media interest was believed to be the reasoning.

“We need to find somewhere else to go. I’ll let everyone know where (we are),” said Helena Doss Santos, co-owner of the Mamma Santos Portuguese Street Food truck.

“It’s the way it is. It’s all good. Life is like that.”

When reached for comment, Dan Murphy’s head office said they would once again overturn the order, and allow the two businesses to stay at the car park for the time being.

It remains to be seen for how long, but consultations are continuing.

Wellington Shire Council said they couldn’t comment on this matter, as the Stay Grounded and Mamma Santos were operating on Dan Murphy’s private property.