A man whose family has run the same tea hut for more than 80 years has spoken of his shock after it was offered out to tender.
Bradley Melton, who runs the business in Hill Wood, High Beech, has been told by the City of London Corporation that the lease will be put up for offer when it expires in December.
The 33-year-old is the fourth generation of his family to run the hut, which is popular with bikers, walkers and horse riders.
He said: “I am in a state of shock. My family have run this tea hut for 84 years and it has never been put up for tender before.
“I don’t understand why they have made the decision to do this now. They told me the days of 80p tea are gone.”
The City of London Corporation said due to budget reductions of 12.5 per cent in Epping Forest, it needs to ensure “value for money” on its licensed outlets.
A spokesperson said: “The trustees have decided to ensure that they are achieving the best possible level of service and return for this facility through public advertisement.
“Tea huts are an Epping Forest tradition and we want that to continue, while meeting the service expectations of all our visitors.”
Mr Melton will have the opportunity to bid for the hut, which opened in 1930.
However, he doesn’t feel confident about his chances.
He said: “I am dyslexic so I struggle with paperwork. Also, if a big chain comes in to bid on the pitch, I will not be able to compete with them.”
Ralph Ankers, 57, has been a regular at the hut for 30 years.
He said: “Bradley has been very good to his customers. During the recession he never once put his prices up even though his rent trebled.”
The tea hut set up a Facebook page to raise awareness of the issue and has gained nearly 6,000 likes in less than a week.
An online petition has also been set up that has reached 1,000 signatures.
Watch a video of Bradley Melton speaking to the Guardian here: