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Ex-staff take action over unpaid wages and ageism at celebrity hotspot Beach Blanket Babylon

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 25 January 2018

Ex-employee Tomer Amar outside of Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. Picture: Ken Mears

Ex-employee Tomer Amar outside of Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. Picture: Ken Mears

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Reporter VICTORIA NOBLE delves deeper into a raft of serious allegations about upmarket restaurants Beach Blanket Babylon, as she finds all has not been glittering behind closed doors.

Beach Blanket Babylon founder and former owner Robert Newmark at his Hampstead home in 2015. Picture: Tom Dunkley Beach Blanket Babylon founder and former owner Robert Newmark at his Hampstead home in 2015. Picture: Tom Dunkley

It is an elite restaurant, regularly hosting pop stars and royalty in its Rococo-styled bar and dining rooms.

But today the Ham&High can reveal that under its former ownership Beach Blanket Babylon, and its founder and ex-owner Hampstead restaurateur Robert Newmark, were subject to a number of allegations including unpaid wages, poor staff treatment and poor hygiene.

The most recent employment tribunal was last month and ex-employees have gone public with their concerns in the hope that the business has turned itself around since it has come under new ownership.

The Shoreditch and Notting Hill branches of the upmarket eatery have played host to reality TV stars, pop star Rita Ora, DJ Nick Grimshaw and even Royals including Prince William and Catherine, who attended Kensington Palace’s Christmas Party at the venue last month.

But, while the restaurant won headlines for its celebrity clientele, our investigation has shown six former Beach Blanket Babylon staff have lodged employment tribunals from March to December 2017 claiming for a total of more than £29,000 in unpaid wages, unfair dismissal and age discrimination.

- The tribunal action was taken against Beach Blanket Babylon, Robert Newmark Restaurants and a company operated by his son Rex Newmark.

Celebrity haunt Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. Picture: Ken Mears Celebrity haunt Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. Picture: Ken Mears

- One former employee claims she had to leave the country in debt as a result of the money owed to her.

- Another ex-employee of Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch alleges he was faced with the decision to pay staff or use funds to keep the hotspot running.

A spokesman for Beach Blanket Babylon told the Ham&High the restaurants are under new ownership and all allegations related to former operators of the celeb hotspots.

He said: “The allegations which you have put to us are historical and concern previous management and owners; many are also wholly untrue. The new operators of the restaurants have not encountered similar difficulties.”

Employment tribunal documents show the claims relate to Beach Blanket Babylon’s exclusive restaurants in Notting Hill and Shoreditch and were lodged from March to December last year.

The action was taken against companies called Robert Newmark Restaurants, trading as Beach Blanket Babylon, BBB Notting Hill Limited, as well as Robert Newmark Restaurants and Robert Newark [sic] trading as Beach Blanket Babylon trading as West Thirty Six. The companies did not attend the hearings.

Ex-employee Tomer Amar says he faced difficult decisions about payment of other staff at Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. Picture: Ken Mears Ex-employee Tomer Amar says he faced difficult decisions about payment of other staff at Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch. Picture: Ken Mears

Four relate to unpaid wages, one to age discrimination, and one to unfair dismissal and unpaid wages of staff and all found in favour of the ex-employees.

One former member of the management team at the Shoreditch branch, who we have agreed to name only as Angélique, says she was forced to leave London due to debts, when just under £2,000 wages went unpaid.

She said: “We heard from the beginning of when we got hired that there were payment issues. We were always lacking money, cash-flows and staff.”

Initially she reserved judgment because she loved the atmosphere at her workplace. However, things changed when payments stopped and shifts got longer.

She revealed that staff “burned out” due to the long hours and claimed payment was chaotic, often incorrect and not on time.

Unable to afford food, rent and transport, she was forced to leave London.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the Kensington Palace Christmas party at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill last month. Picture: PA/Andrew Matthews The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the Kensington Palace Christmas party at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill last month. Picture: PA/Andrew Matthews

She alleges the ruling of her tribunal, awarding her £2,414, has not been honoured.

“At the end of the day they still drive Range Rovers and wear designer clothes, but I still haven’t been paid and I get credit card charges daily,” she stated.

Another tribunal judgment found against Robert Newmark for age discrimination, awarding the claimant over £10,000.

The total money awarded to ex-employees through the tribunal rulings exceeds £29,000.

Tomer Amar, a former employee at the Shoreditch branch, who resigned in December 2016 after three months in the job, described his time at the eatery as “the worst experience I had in my life”.

He was in charge of distributing wages to junior staff, and recalled the difficult choices he says he was forced to make.

Pop star Rita Ora has also visited the fashionable restaurant. Picture: PA/Ian West Pop star Rita Ora has also visited the fashionable restaurant. Picture: PA/Ian West

“Every week, I had to choose whether to pay staff money that we owed them or to buy alcohol to make more money to pay the staff in the future,” he claimed. “On a daily and weekly basis, people would come to the restaurant asking for money.”

Two of the employment tribunals involve a company headed by Robert Newmark’s younger son, Rex Newmark, a former reality TV contestant on Big Brother Nine who describes himself on LinkedIn as executive chef at Beach Blanket Babylon.

He made headlines last year when he pled guilty to assaulting his girlfriend, Emma Blackman, at the restaurant in Shoreditch.

A spokesman for Beach Blanket Babylon said the restaurants are no longer operated by Robert Newmark, trading as Robert Newmark Restaurants, but declined to comment on who the new owners are.

He said: “The restaurants’ performance in all areas has substantially improved since the change of ownership. This was proven by one of the restaurants being chosen to host the Kensington Palace Christmas party.

“Our customers are reaping the rewards from the hard work of new management and the restaurants are destination restaurants for diners to enjoy.”

Robert Newmark was disqualified from acting as a company director in August 2016. Picture: Tom Dunkley Robert Newmark was disqualified from acting as a company director in August 2016. Picture: Tom Dunkley

The Ham&High has attempted to reach Robert Newmark for comment.

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History of financial troubles at Beach Blanket Babylon

Companies House documents show the ownership structure of Beach Blanket Babylon has changed over the last two years amid a chequered financial history.

Robert Newmark and his son Brett Newmark were disqualified from acting as company directors in August 2016 for a combined eight-and-a-half years for allowing a company, Rosslyn Hill Ltd, trading as Beach Blanket Babylon, to trade while insolvent and owing £1million to the taxman.

An administrator’s report in February 2017 says another company Firedeal Ltd, operating as Beach Blanket Babylon, suffered severe cash-flow difficulties following an extensive refurbishment project that failed to increase turnover.

As a result of the deteriorating financial position, the company ceased trading on February 1, 2016 and all staff were transferred to Robert Newmark Restaurants operating as a sole trader.

A spokesman for Beach Blanket Babylon told the Ham&High the restaurants are no longer operated by Robert Newmark, trading as Robert Newmark Restaurants.

They declined to comment on the identity of the new owners.

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Cockroach infestation at celebrity eatery

Beach Blanket Babylon also came under fire under its previous ownership for its hygiene standards, after a cockroach and mice infestation in May 2017 left the Shoreditch branch with a zero rating.

Although the eatery has now been re-rated as four, out of a possible five rating, the hygiene inspector said at the time that mice and cockroaches were found on the premises.

“The standards of hygiene and labelling found during my inspection were not compliant with food law,” the report said. “Urgent improvement is necessary to comply with the law.”

A spokesman for Beach Blanket Babylon said the problems were historic and the restaurants are now under new ownership.

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