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Exki to close illegal kitchen in the Marolles after complaints

A sign for the Exki food chain seen above one of its locations in Brussels (Wikipedia Creative Commons/ © All Rights Reserved)
06:21 26/04/2021

For years, a building used as a kitchen by the Exki food chain has caused noise pollution in a residential part of the Marolles in Brussels city centre, prompting complaints from those living nearby.

After local residents officially demanded action from the authorities, it was determined that Exki did not have the necessary permit to operate a kitchen on the site. The food chain was given the opportunity to apply for a permit but has now said that it will vacate the property on Rue de la Prévoyance at the end of April.

Exki has been renting the 100m² ground floor location in the narrow one-way street for about 10 years. The complaints have been steadily growing since 2018, mostly centred on the noise pollution caused by the food chain’s operations there, especially at night when numerous deliveries are made. Residents have complained about heavy trucks rumbling down the cobbled street in the early hours, horns from cars stuck in traffic jams behind the lorries, and the clattering of pallets being dragged into the building, among other disturbances.

"If we want to sleep, we have to move to the sofa in the living room with a blanket," one resident of the street told De Morgen newspaper.

The environment department of the city authorities carried out several noise checks on the street in response to the complaints. During three different noise measuring tests in September, November and March, the sound metre recorded more than 50 decibels in the evening and at night. In a residential zone the maximum is 30 decibels. The prosecutor's office was made aware of the violations.

In normal circumstances, Exki usually operates at night to prepare food for companies but since the coronavirus pandemic began, it has increasingly used its night shifts to prepare food for the growing number of takeaway orders it receives.

"Until 2018, there were never any complaints,” a spokesperson for Exki said. “We made many modifications to the building to reduce noise, but for some neighbours it was never good enough." Exki has since accepted that the building and its location was not the most suitable place for its food preparation activities.

In addition to the noise, it was revealed that Exki did not have the correct permits to operate such an enterprise at the location. Ans Persoons, the Brussels councillor responsible for town planning and public spaces, confirmed that there had been an urban planning violation. "You can operate a kitchen in a residential zone, but the four fans, the hood and the insulation wall have not been given a licence," she said. Exki was given 45 days to apply for a permit but has decided against it.

"The kitchen will close at the end of this month," the company’s spokesperson said. "We will transfer its activities to two of our Brussels restaurants."

There is relief among the residents of the street, but also scepticism. A new asphalt loading and unloading zone has recently been created at the site suggesting plans for a longer, more permanent stay. “When I see them leave,” one resident said of Exki’s decision to move on, “then I’ll believe it.” 

Written by Nick Amies