Shocked Barge Inn staff told they were redundant as they left work

This Is Wiltshire: Claire Perry MP met the Barge Inn's buy-out group and Lottery officials in 2010. She is pictured, right, with Bev Mcenaney, Sandra Bhatia, John Brewin, Mark Cotton, of the National Lottery, and Terry Kemp Claire Perry MP met the Barge Inn's buy-out group and Lottery officials in 2010. She is pictured, right, with Bev Mcenaney, Sandra Bhatia, John Brewin, Mark Cotton, of the National Lottery, and Terry Kemp

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet, saved from possible closure by a community buyout with the help of more than £400,000 Lottery funding, is insolvent it was confirmed to the Gazette this afternoon.

The pub opened for the last time yesterday and staff were devastated to be told as they were leaving last night that they are redundant.

This afternoon John Brewin, chairman of the buyout group, confirmed that there was a large VAT debt but was unable to substantiate the £100,000 figure which a source told the Gazette earlier today.

Mr Brewin said: “We did try to register for VAT but we had the most awful problems."

Mr Brewin had to wait until this afternoon, after meeting the Government’s Insolvency Service before confirming that the pub is closed and will not be re-opened by the Barge Inn Community Project Committee, which he has chaired from the start.

The 200-year-old canal-side pub will remain closed, possibly for several weeks, until a new buyer can be found for the 18 years its lease has left to run.

News that the staff were told last night the pub had reached the end of the road was leaked to the Gazette.

A friend of one of the staff said: “I have a friend who has been working there since the pub re-opened and all the staff were told last night that the pub was closing and that they have lost their jobs.

“They told me that everyone there was gutted because the news came completely out of the blue.”

The Barge Inn Community Project took over the pub in August 2110 after its previous landlords June and Adrian Potts retired after running the pub for 17 years.

It closed for six weeks from February last year and re-opened in April after a major refit financed by the Big Lottery’s Village SOS fund with more than £430,000 being poured into buying the lease and refurbishing the building and with plans to eventually have a village shop – the last one closed 20 years ago – as part of the project.

The shop has never materialised.

Mr Brewin said this afternoon that the pub was not attracting the level of customers it needed to keep its head above water.

“The summer was well below expectations for trading and since the end of August the little trade we had has fallen away completely," he said.

“Our running costs were much higher than the previous tenants’ had been and we were in the process of bringing them under control - but too little, too late.”

The BBC filmed every aspect of the refurbishment and people like Aggie MacKenzie, co-presenter of How Clean is Your House was brought in to help with the spring clean before work could start including a brand new oak bar.

The village buy-out of the pub’s lease featured in a one hour BBC documentary presented by Sarah Beeny, coinciding with the completion of the refurbishment.

Sandra Bhatia, who was appointed by Village SOS to head the project, said today: “I am in shock. I was told on Friday there were problems there but I was unaware it was going to close.”

The property owner Ian McIvor, whose business Honeystreet Ales leases the pub to the community committee, said he was surprised the pub had closed.

He said: “I have no issues with the pub or management committee and this is the first I have heard that it has closed.”

Mr McIvor said the rent was paid up to date.

Comments (11)

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6:33am Tue 23 Oct 12

wondering why says...

sad for the community, we visited the pub prior to the former tenants retiring it seemed an ideal location. £430k is a lot of money to use in such a short time.
sad for the community, we visited the pub prior to the former tenants retiring it seemed an ideal location. £430k is a lot of money to use in such a short time. wondering why

11:23am Tue 23 Oct 12

roger.l.p says...

This is the second time a large sum of public money has seemingly disappeard down a black hole chasing a concept that many of us thought spurious anyway.The Pewsey PACT centre was bad enoiugh but this is apppalling.It is time that the Lotteryt Commission were instructed publicly to account for their actions and more notice was taken of whether the whole community were behind the project in the first place
This is the second time a large sum of public money has seemingly disappeard down a black hole chasing a concept that many of us thought spurious anyway.The Pewsey PACT centre was bad enoiugh but this is apppalling.It is time that the Lotteryt Commission were instructed publicly to account for their actions and more notice was taken of whether the whole community were behind the project in the first place roger.l.p

11:59am Wed 24 Oct 12

oldladypewsham says...

We visited this pub earlier this year on a sunday, in what passes for our summer -we waited to park, there were campers near by, the pub was full and fully booked for lunch, a big extention under construction and seamed to have everything going for it. such a shame to hear this news....... they had such a lot of help from the cummunity, can't quite work out how this could have got into such mess as regards the VAT, I hope that a buyer can be found asap and get the pub back up and running.
We visited this pub earlier this year on a sunday, in what passes for our summer -we waited to park, there were campers near by, the pub was full and fully booked for lunch, a big extention under construction and seamed to have everything going for it. such a shame to hear this news....... they had such a lot of help from the cummunity, can't quite work out how this could have got into such mess as regards the VAT, I hope that a buyer can be found asap and get the pub back up and running. oldladypewsham

6:58pm Wed 24 Oct 12

shed says...

I was once VAT registered.... in my experience all you have to do is ask, they are that keen to get our cash they'll virtually do it for you...did they not have an accountant ?

something fishy here and not just in the canal.
I was once VAT registered.... in my experience all you have to do is ask, they are that keen to get our cash they'll virtually do it for you...did they not have an accountant ? something fishy here and not just in the canal. shed

11:01am Thu 25 Oct 12

HealeyDriver says...

It seems an odd situation and smacks of mismanagement, at least not to have had some earlier attempts to take costs out of the business. Surely VAT would have been the first thing to do if you are spending that sort of money on a refurbishment, purely because I would have thought you'd want to claim it back! (even though the building is Listed I believe I doubt all the work would have been zero rated).
It seems an odd situation and smacks of mismanagement, at least not to have had some earlier attempts to take costs out of the business. Surely VAT would have been the first thing to do if you are spending that sort of money on a refurbishment, purely because I would have thought you'd want to claim it back! (even though the building is Listed I believe I doubt all the work would have been zero rated). HealeyDriver

11:35am Thu 25 Oct 12

thelittlemorgan says...

very fishy indeed.
very fishy indeed. thelittlemorgan

10:22am Fri 26 Oct 12

David-S says...

I don't believe for one minute the suggestion that the pub wasn't busy enough. It it wasn't busy how did they run up a VAT bill of £100,000? And yes the tax man would be more than happy to assist in registering with them. I hope this is looked in to properly becuse decent people have lost their jobs over this. Too often public money is squandered and we are not talking about a few pence in this instance.
I don't believe for one minute the suggestion that the pub wasn't busy enough. It it wasn't busy how did they run up a VAT bill of £100,000? And yes the tax man would be more than happy to assist in registering with them. I hope this is looked in to properly becuse decent people have lost their jobs over this. Too often public money is squandered and we are not talking about a few pence in this instance. David-S

3:07pm Fri 26 Oct 12

shed says...

According to the excellent Marlborough on line news service around 1.5 million quid has gone through the books of
The Barge Inn Community Project (BICP) int he last 2 years

This needs looking into very hard indeed.
either total incompetence or criminal activity involved.
According to the excellent Marlborough on line news service around 1.5 million quid has gone through the books of The Barge Inn Community Project (BICP) int he last 2 years This needs looking into very hard indeed. either total incompetence or criminal activity involved. shed

8:45am Sat 27 Oct 12

wondering why says...

if you pull the company's accounts the auditors make the following statement

The audit report states that there is uncertainty concerning the company being a 'going concern'

Business planning, risk management and competent directors and officers all come into the equation.

No doubt the facts will come out in time
if you pull the company's accounts the auditors make the following statement The audit report states that there is uncertainty concerning the company being a 'going concern' Business planning, risk management and competent directors and officers all come into the equation. No doubt the facts will come out in time wondering why

12:19pm Sat 27 Oct 12

truthseekers says...

£56k in losses reported in accounts after Second honey fest. Theres another £100 gone if you add it up.
£56k in losses reported in accounts after Second honey fest. Theres another £100 gone if you add it up. truthseekers

4:08pm Sat 27 Oct 12

Tulip says...

Who will be responsible for an investigation on the management of this extravagance? Lottery? A N Other?
Who will be responsible for an investigation on the management of this extravagance? Lottery? A N Other? Tulip

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