A DEAL to reopen two town centre bars which were repossessed by Barnsley Council after the owner fell behind on his rent payments to the tune of more than £100,000 was close to being completed yesterday evening, the Chronicle understands.
Mat Crisp, who is a director at the True Independent Group (TIG) and a Liberal Democrat councillor for Darton East, told the Chronicle he found out The Salt House and Black and White bar had been closed by the council at the same time as everyone else - through a Facebook post on the local authority’s page at 7am on Monday morning.
The council said the firm had failed to meet its lease and rental obligations - and the Chronicle understands the rent for The Salt House is £90,000 per year, and £25,000 per year for the second bar.
But Mr Crisp said that spiralling costs of products such as meat and alcohol following the war in Ukraine had left the firm with financial woes.
He told the Chronicle: “It’s not a case of ‘your cocktails are too expensive so you should be flushed with cash’.
“Customers only see the Saturday.
“Monday to Friday I’ve still got staff to pay.
“I’ve got products to pay for.
“My meat went up by 50 per cent, my stock on ale went up 25 per cent.
“Your margins go.
“You’re paying high rent for the town centre.
“They’re big numbers.”
Mr Crisp said he became aware of the arrears the company was in earlier this year, and subsequently set up a payment plan after paying a lump sum of £35,000 to the council.
But, according to Mr Crisp, no money was taken out of his account - and he was unaware there was an issue until the council’s social media post.
“If anyone would have asked me Sunday night what was going on with the council I’d have told them that we’ve got an agreement,” he added.
“I found out at the same time as everybody else.”
The TIG had been working with the council throughout the week to try and broker a deal to allow them to reopen the venues within the coming days - and Mr Crisp told the Chronicle yesterday afternoon that a deal was close and the debt would be wiped clean subject to the finer contract details.
“We were sending various proposals to see whether or not we could get another arrangement with the council,” he added.
“On Wednesday we found a deal that both parties were able to work with.
“It’s currently with the solicitors to look at the finer details.
“I’m happy with the effort that the team has put in to salvage this from the brink of destruction - the fact we’re at this stage at all shows our level of commitment to getting this done.
“We want to clear this debt and save the jobs.”
He added that the firm is looking for an ‘imminent reopening’ - and solicitors are ‘dotting the Is and crossing the Ts’.
“We were of the firm understanding that a payment arrangement was in place,” he said.
“Regardless or not of whether it could have been handled better, we are now looking for an imminent reopening.”