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Heath engraver has to break into own shop to retrieve kit after landlord locks him out

PUBLISHED: 16:55 19 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:26 23 November 2018

Alain Antionette outside his workshop, on Bakers Lane. Picture: Polly Hancock

Alain Antionette outside his workshop, on Bakers Lane. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

A workshop owner who engraves benches on Hampstead Heath was forced to break in to his own business to retrieve machinery after the landlord changed the locks and evicted him over unpaid rent.

A locksmith removes the padlock into Antoinette's Creative workshop. Picture: Polly HancockA locksmith removes the padlock into Antoinette's Creative workshop. Picture: Polly Hancock

With the Ham&High present, Alain Antoinette, along with his wife Deidre and friends, crowbarred their way into Antoinette’s in Baker’s Lane, Highgate, to take back the £40,000 of machines locked inside the shop by the landlord Andreas Tomouzous.

The 59-year-old found his shop locked up, and an eviction notice on the door, on November 5. He admitted he was behind on his rent, but pointed to the escalating sums since he took over the property in 2005.

“When I moved in, the rent was £8,500,” he claimed. “It’s now more than £20,000 a year. I’ve ended up taking out loans to cover the extra costs as they’ve mounted up. Eventually it’s caught up with me.”

Inside the Antoinette's workshop. Picture: Polly HancockInside the Antoinette's workshop. Picture: Polly Hancock

Since Alain moved in, he said he had spent about £20,000 in improvements. He alleges the landlord has refused to carry out work on the property, leaving a leaky roof. “I used to live locally as well, but we’ve had to move to Hitchin to try and save money,” he said. “It’s been incredibly stressful. We’ve been stopped from making money and we still need to put food on the table.”

Among the machinery in the workshop were lathes, laser cutters and drills Alain uses for his engraving and turning work.

One of his clients is the City of London Corporation, for whom he engraves the benches on the Heath. He has also produced plaques for the King’s Troop, and parts of the film set for the 2012 movie Prometheus.

Alain has a conversation with a representative of his landlord as he prepares to move out of his longstanding workshop. Picture: Polly HancockAlain has a conversation with a representative of his landlord as he prepares to move out of his longstanding workshop. Picture: Polly Hancock

While we were at the scene, at least three clients requesting work had to be turned away – jobs estimated to be worth hundreds.

Partway through the removal, a friend of the landlord arrived to tell Alain his actions were “trespassing”.

Speaking to this newspaper, Bambos Charalambos said Alain had rejected numerous opportunities to meet the landlord and “make an offer” over the £24,000 allegedly owed in rent. “If he was not happy with the terms of the lease when it was renewed in 2017, why didn’t he consult a solicitor? Why did he sign it?” said Mr Charalambos. Mr Antoinette denies meetings were missed, and said he offered to meet Mr Tomouzous to give him money towards the overdue rent.

The Ham&High has contacted Mr Tomouzous for comment.

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