Hampstead restaurant goes bust owing £346,000 to creditors - including butcher's shop next door
PUBLISHED: 07:30 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 24 January 2019
Under-fire boutique restaurant Café Hampstead has gone bust, owing £346,000 to authorities, staff and suppliers – including a butcher’s shop two doors away.
According to papers filed by Café Hampstead Ltd’s liquidators, Quantuma, on Christmas Eve, the business owed £346,464.26 in unpaid debts. The amount includes £107,857.40 to Camden Council for business rates and £144,000 to HMRC for unpaid tax and VAT.
Other creditors include hospitality recruitment firms, wine suppliers and a plumber.
One man owed money by Café Hampstead Ltd is Philip Matthews, who runs Hampstead Butcher and Providore two doors away in Rosslyn Hill.
The restaurant racked up a £1,799 bill for meat and other produce supplied by the shop. Mr Matthews obtained a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against the business and managed to recoup £500 before he got a letter on December 20 saying the company was “commencing liquidation proceedings to wind up the company voluntarily”.
Cafe Hampstead Ltd was the subject of a winding up order made at the request of Enotria and Coe wine sellers in October over a £4,908 debt.
According to Companies House, Café Hampstead Ltd has one director, Conor Thomson-Moore.
Mr Matthews said he had supplied produce to the restaurant until July last year when payment stopped. He has now urged traders not to deal with Mr Thomson-Moore – or Robert Newmark, the banned director who was shown to be linked to the business in a Ham&High investigation last year – in the future.
“[I think] they’re toxic to do business with. [My advice is] don’t do it,” he said.
“They stopped paying us in July, and we went on cash on delivery for bit. Then it all went very quiet about paying back what we were owed. Chefs were coming in embarrassed, apologising because of what was happening. They weren’t being paid either. For me, that’s worse.”
The restaurant then made two £250 payments, before going quiet again in October. “A lot of businesses have cash flow problems,” he said. “It happens. But what you do is to speak to your creditors, set up payment plans, and try to find a way through it.” He said the firm gave Cafe Hampstead “a short leash in terms of credit” because of what he had heard about Robert Newmark. “It won’t jeopardise us,” he added. “It’s small fry for us compared to the non-payment of staff.”
In a bizarre email exchange in September, Mr Thomson-Moore told Mr Matthews to “step down from [his] soapbox” over a request for payment after a County Court Judgement.
He also accused Mr Matthews’ “scallywag” staff of stealing furniture from outside the restaurant, which the butcher admits doing himself as a “tease” because Café Hampstead was “acting with a sense of impunity.”
Another company, Bethnal Green Fish Supplies, is owed £4,779, and at one point the amount Café Hampstead owed it rose to almost £7,500. It took a visit by a staff member to Mr Newmark’s house to get them started up again.
Owner Serge Lea said his business had only started up in February. “Any knock like this for any new business in the beginning is big,” he told the Ham&High. “We’re a small seafood supplier, looking to source a lot of our fish from Britain, and we’ve paid for what we’ve delivered in advance. We’re out of pocket for this.”
When this newspaper paid a visit to the restaurant last week it was still open and trading.
The Insolvency Service launched a fresh investigation into Mr Newmark’s business dealings after the Ham&High reported last year that the restaurant owed staff thousands of pounds in unpaid wages.
Evidence published in this paper showed Mr Newmark was still involved with running the eatery in Rosslyn Hill, breaching a 2016 order banning him from managing a company.
Perhaps ironically, he and his son Brett had been given the order after allowing an insolvent business to continue trading. At that time, Mr Newmark had been subject to a four-year banning order made in 2015 relating to his time as director of Frontmirror Ltd.
The lease to 48 Rosslyn Hill is owned by County Park Limited according to Companies House. Its sole director is Mr Newmark’s other son, Rex, with both the senior Mr Newmark and his son Brett listed as former directors prior to their disqualification.
Mr Thomson-Moore apologised to creditors and said the business was now under new ownership. He blamed a high staff turnover, Brexit and negative reviews for the troubled restaurant’s problems.
He said: “It has been an extremely hard time for me personally, When I set out to create Café Hampstead I never expected this would happen and I can only apologise to the creditors who are owed money.
“I tried to keep up with various payment plans to creditors, but the financial pressure built up to a level that I could no longer sustain. I unfortunately had to move out of my house at the end of September 2018 in a last desperate attempt to raise funds and unfortunately liquidation seemed very regrettably the only honourable option under the circumstances. With the decline in sales in the leisure industry as a whole caused by the uncertainty of Brexit, It’s become extremely harder to find European staff, on which we solely relied.”
A spokesperson for Camden said: “The council takes the issue of recovering any money owed to it seriously in order to ensure the availability of maximum resources to spend on essential resident services.”