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Café Hampstead: Banned director interviewing staff for troubled restaurant as ex-employee wins £10k at tribunal

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:24 07 February 2019

Café Hampstead, which remains open despite being liquidated. Picture: Polly Hancock

Café Hampstead, which remains open despite being liquidated. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Following revelations surrounding Café Hampstead’s liquidation last month, Harry Taylor reports on a banned company director allegedly interviewing for positions at the restaurant, and how an employment tribunal has cost it more than £10,000

Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill. Picture: Google MapsBeach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill. Picture: Google Maps

Banned director Brett Newmark is alleged to be interviewing staff at the insolvent Café Hampstead – despite having been struck off alongside his father Robert in 2016.

It is the latest controversy at the crisis-hit restaurant, which is also now contending with a recent employment tribunal outcome that found it had unfairly dismissed an “operations executive” last year.

Officially, the Newmarks’ only involvement with Cafe Hampstead is that Robert owns shares in its landlord, Rosslyn Hill Holdings Ltd. But text message conversations between Robert and workers, revealed in the Ham&High last year, appeared to show he was still dealing with staff, stock ordering and wage disputes, and had even ploughed his own money in to keep Cafe Hampstead afloat.

Now a chef who was approached to work at the crisis-hit restaurant in Rosslyn Hill last week told the Ham&High he had been interviewed for the job by Brett, and an unknown second man, at the Beach Blanket Babylon restaurant in Notting Hill, which is also linked to the family. This newspaper has also seen a text message from the recruitment agent telling the chef his interview would be with Brett Newmark.

Taoufik Hannachi. Picture: Taoufik Hannachi.Taoufik Hannachi. Picture: Taoufik Hannachi.

Both Robert and Brett were struck off as directors of Rosslyn Hill Ltd, which ran Beach Blanket Babylon, in July 2016. According to the order, neither can be “the director of a company whether directly or indirectly, or be involved in the management of a company in any way for the duration of their disqualification unless they have permission from court”.

The orders will expire in January 2020 for Brett, and July 2021 for Robert.

The Insolvency Service says “management of a company” may include but not be limited to “hiring or firing employees”.

The Ham&High understands there are now vacancies for head chefs at the Beach Blanket Babylon restaurants in Notting Hill and Shoreditch after a number walked out or were dismissed, in some cases still owed thousands.

Robert Newmark at his former Hampstead home in 2015. Picture: Tom DunkleyRobert Newmark at his former Hampstead home in 2015. Picture: Tom Dunkley

The chef was told he could be working either at Cafe Hampstead or at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill.

The recruitment drive at Cafe Hampstead suggests it is business as usual for the beleaguered Hampstead eatery – despite having gone bust a fortnight ago, owing creditors £346,000.

Its owner Conor Thomson-Moore apologised to creditors, and said it had been a “hard time [...] personally”. He said the business was under new ownership. The restaurant has remained open.

Mr Thomson-Moore has recently registered a new company, Le Collection Ltd, to the address of Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch.

Café Hampstead is a further £10,752 in the red after an employment tribunal found it had unfairly dismissed, and not paid, a former operations executive, Taoufik Hannachi.

Mr Hannachi was awarded £2,331 in unpaid wages and notice, as well as £8,448 for unfair dismissal. Café Hampstead didn’t enter a defence at the hearing on January 11 in Victory House.

Speaking to this newspaper, he repeated claims made in the Ham&High last year that Robert Newmark was still heavily involved in running the business despite his disqualification.

“You had people literally crying, wanting their wages,” said Mr Hannachi. “One young Polish couple, who were students and worked at the restaurant, couldn’t pay their rent. I gave them two weeks’ worth out of my own pocket.

“They left this country with nothing,” he said. He added: “People end up working for free.”

Mr Hannachi said he was originally brought into the business in July last year to shore up its “back office,” including payment to staff.

The 34-year-old, who has worked in the catering industry for 16 years, then found he wasn’t being paid. The last time he saw Robert was when he returned to the restaurant to ask for his wages on September 1. Robert accused him of being “aggressive” and called the police but no one was arrested.

Mr Hannachi said he felt “ashamed” about how the restaurant was run, often at the expense of EU staff who were left out of pocket.

Two other members of staff, a bar worker and waiter, brought employment tribunal cases against Café Hampstead on the same day as Mr Hannachi. The judgments are pending.

Robert, through his lawyer, and Brett Newmark have been approached for comment but have not responded.

Have you been affected by the situation at Café Hampstead or Beach Blanket Babylon? Contact the newsdesk at harry.taylor@archant.co.uk or 0207 433 0119.

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