Statement regarding the closure of The Belle Epoque at King Street, Knutsford

Issued by Matthew Mooney

June 17th, 2019 

It is with a heavy heart that my family and I have to announce that at the end of June, the Belle Epoque will no longer be trading from 60 King Street in Knutsford, our home for the last 46 years. This follows a sustained campaign from our landlord, Knutsford Town Council, to remove us from the premises.

Trading on the UK high street is tough at the moment and like many other far larger retail businesses we entered into a CVA in February 2019, fully supported by HMRC. Our landlord, the council, despite not being financially affected in any way, chose to exploit a clause in our lease to take court proceedings against us and evict us from our King street premises. We want to make it quite clear that our landlord was not asked to reduce the rent and that there are absolutely NO RENT arrears.

At a time when saving the British high street and supporting independent local businesses frequently appears in the media, it is sad that our local council (and in this case, our landlord) have proved so short sighted in their approach. Rather than collaboratively working with us, they have instigated the loss of a well-respected, family run, independent business.

The actions of Knutsford Town Council and their lack of support has had a direct impact on our staff and particularly on our many clients. All of our wedding bookings have been offered an alternative venue at no financial loss to themselves, this venue is within close proximity to The Belle Epoque and we remain committed to giving our bride clients a very special day.

While as a landlord, Knutsford Town Council have been unsupportive, as a local public body, they have behaved appallingly. Local tax payers money has been spent on unnecessary legal fees, meetings have been held in secret, not allowing for full democratic public debate and they have demonstrated contempt for Knutsford residents by choosing to completely ignore a petition signed by 169 of them asking that the town council reconsider terminating our lease.

The conduct of the Knutsford Town Council will be a matter for Cheshire East, as we have issued a formal complaint which is being investigated.

During recent weeks, we have been made aware that the town council wish to run the venue as an events business for themselves. Indeed, the assistant town clerk has spoken to our bride and groom clients offering them the venue under the ownership of the council, this behaviour is completely inappropriate, but it is reflective of the manner in which the council has behaved during the past two years.

As a result of their behaviour we still have a legal claim against Knutsford Town Council for over £20,000 worth of unpaid invoices plus other damages, including those resulting from the forfeiture of the lease and this case will be heard in the Crown Court later this summer.

We are grateful to those landlords who have approached us with a view to relocating The Belle Epoque as a restaurant and/or wedding venue to new premises and these discussions are ongoing.

Once again, we are deeply saddened and frustrated by these events and would like to thank the huge number of customers, suppliers, and staff who contributed to our iconic business for over four decades, all of which have been amazing in their support.

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