A court ruling to close Val d’Isere slope-front snack hut La Cabane, because the smell of chips offended luxury apartment owners’ noses, has been overturned.
La Cabane has re-opened and is back selling its popular, affordable panini, crepe and burger snacks, after the court rejected its earlier closure order – we’re told over a legal technicality. It marks another twist in the David v Goliath battle which has been going on for the best part of a decade and attracted global media attention.
Valerie Maerten has fought through the courts for over seven years to save her livelihood, after multimillionaire former L’Oreal chairman Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones and fellow apartment owners launched a legal battle against the small eatery.
They argued cooking smells had lowered the value of their homes and caused a nuisance to their nostrils. After losing several attempts to convince the court the hut should close, judges agreed last year that the building should not be used as a commercial enterprise based on a bylaw. They ruled it must close after the end of last winter season.
At the time, Ms Maerten posted an emotional message on La Cabane’s Facebook page: “The story comes to a close after the court of Albertville decided in favour of the owner of ‘neige et glace’ and also the owner of the Chalet Schuss. And today I am condemned to close the cabin in the next 2 months. There it is, a beautiful little story comes to a close, a human story of a continuous fight. In any case, thank you all who have given me your support. See you soon, Valerie.”
Almost 10,000 people signed an online petition set up to try to save the shop, and news of the court’s decision shocked and angered many.
When we posted the news on our Facebook page, comments included:
“This is totally unacceptable and should never have been allowed to happen. I say everybody should just start rocking up with bbq’s and just start cooking everyday.”
“That’s appalling. It’s HER country. If he doesn’t like it he can afford to move. She should sue him for loss of earnings.”
“She should go for crowdfunding to help her appeal – there would be no shortage of people willing to step forward and contribute.”
We visited the hut to get people’s reactions at the end of last season and everyone was supportive of La Cabane.
Adam Lenz, on holiday from London, said he’d eaten at the hut five times with friends during the week as it offered a great location and cheaper prices than nearby restaurants. “I’m absolutely shocked. I’ve heard some things in my time but this beats them all. I’m sat right outside and can’t really smell the chips, let alone all the way over there in the apartments. It’s not petrol, it’s not a strong smell. I can’t believe there’s nothing they can do.”
Alan Parker, on holiday with his family from Bedford, said: “The smell wouldn’t bother me but I’m a foodie. It would be a shame if the snack bar closed. This is for everyone, they [the complainants] are probably not here all the time anyway.”
Annabelle d’Huart, a regular Val d’Isere visitor from Paris, said: “Maybe the smell is with the wind. I’ve been waiting for friends here for 20 minutes and I would have been straight out if there was a smell, I wouldn’t stay.”
This is unlikely to be the last we hear of this court battle.