David Phillips at The Bean Van at the Pacific Highway rest stop at Yelgun.
David Phillips at The Bean Van at the Pacific Highway rest stop at Yelgun. Liana Turner

Rest stop coffee shops under threat from 'critical review'

IT'S a small oasis for locals, truckies and travellers alike.

Just off the highway, the Yelgun rest stop is one of many like it along the Pacific Highway and across the state.

But a one-man business selling food and drinks there is under threat, as are many like it.

David Phillips has been running The Bean Van at the rest stop for almost four years.

Mr Phillips said his Roads and Maritime Services licence to operate there had so far been renewed without issue each year.

But he has been told an ongoing review of rest stop vendors across the state may change this.

"I started here in November, 2014," Mr Phillips said.

"They (the RMS) were renewing it on an annual basis on the following July.

"Throughout that time it's never been an issue.

"I've always had the Byron Council permit issued without any problems and once that's been issued, they've concurrently issued (an RMS) notice of approval."

He said red flags appeared at his most recent renewal.

"The first time I suspected something was not right was when they issued me with the renewal from July to December 31," he said.

"I said what's going on and they said (the RMS) is doing a critical review of vending in rest areas across all of NSW.

"I've asked them what that critical review was and to this day, they still haven't told me why it's been brought about, what the critical review entails ... and what the likely outcomes will be."

Mr Phillips said he had been granted an extension until July 1 next year as "a gesture of goodwill".

"All they've said to me is the likelihood of me being granted another permit on July 1 next year is most unlikely," he said.

"This is my livelihood."

He's since been petitioning to keep the vendors across the state, and is liaising with another operator at Sleepy Hollow to the north, along with others.

Traveller Wendy Daniel is only in the area a few weeks a year, but said The Bean Van and businesses like it across the state were vital.

When she is on the Far North Coast, she's a regular at Mr Phillips' van.

"This is a very, very important service that David has provided," she said.

"The service, the community that David has created here of locals, the truckies, the travellers, there's people coming here from all over the world."

She said such businesses being able to operate at rest stops were vital for road safety, too.

"I think one of the main things is these trucks ... (and) the responsibility that they have to drive these things and stay focused and stay sane as well," Ms Daniel said.

A Byron Shire Council spokeswoman confirmed they had approved four separate mobile food vendor permits for use at rest stops over the years.

"Obtaining Council's mobile food vendor permit has been a condition of trade for these businesses, set out by the RMS, so that they can trade on RMS land," she said

She said the council had "no recorded issues with food vendors at rest stops".

The RMS has been approached for comment.