CAKES and Ale, a popular Old Town cafe, has closed its doors less than a year after opening.

The owners of the Devizes Road cafe, which opened in June last year, have posted a heartfelt message on their website stating that they have been 'killed by taxes'.

David Marriott, who set up the business with wife Marya, of Wroughton, said: "The odds against new businesses succeeding for even a year are high, way above 50 per cent. The odds worsen for cafes and restaurant businesses. We knew that when we opened but life without risk is a kind of death.

"No-one ever tells you why the odds are so stacked against you. When your business falters, you start to understand why. When it falls over, it becomes crystal clear. Essentially, we were killed by taxes.

"Sure, we made mistakes. But we're not stupid and have lived and worked long enough to know how to avoid fundamental errors. We were and are idealistic - but not naive."

The cafe, based in the unit of a former furniture shop, was an unusual concept, selling beer and wine, but also tea, coffee, cakes, breakfast, lunch and supper.

It aimed to offer a balance between traditional and modern food from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

David added: "Our landlord allowed us the first six months rent-free but the minute we started to trade we, like all similar businesses, became liable for a terrible trinity of taxes - VAT, National Insurance and local business rates. Only now, far too late to save us, has the government allowed a £1000 reduction on rates and £2000 (maximum) on NI. We've been waiting months for an additional revaluation of the business rates, which has finally come through, just as we're having to close, so we'll never benefit from it.

"If we'd managed to make any money, we would have had to pay corporation tax on that, of course.

"We don't object to paying our fair share of tax but what we owe - and cannot pay - the taxman is far outweighed by the value of the state benefits that will be paid to our redundant staff. That looks like madness to us.

"We take off our hats to other small businesses like ours that succeed against the odds. We don't know how they do it but wish them continued success.

"We want to thank the many hundreds of customers who supported us, promoted our business and became our friends. We're really sorry that, having discovered us, we have disappeared from your view. It's not what we wanted."

David said the couple are now planning on a career in renovating and customising vintage furniture, after many customers admired their style, furniture and décor.