THE parent company behind a major new South Tyneside restaurant which closed its doors in June has gone into compulsory liquidation.
A debt owed to a leading UK wine supplier led to a winding up order against California Leisure Limited in the High Court in London on September 30.
The director and secretary of the company is borough independent councillor Jane Branley, who represents the Westoe ward on South Tyneside Council.
There were high hopes for Arbeias Et Brasserie restaurant in Winchester Street, South Shields, when it opened in November last year.
Named after South Shields’ Roman fort, the eaterie - revamped from the former Porters nightspot - promised “contemporary British and Mediterranean grill cuisine in a beautiful setting”.
But it closed without warning in June, with the reason cited on its website as “intermittent problems with our gas supply”.
A message on the site added: “At present, we do not have a definite reopening date, as we are awaiting a completion date from our contractors.”
The website also stated the restaurant was a “wholly owned trading name of California Leisure Limited”.
On August 26, the website reported that the gas supply problem had been resolved, but that the restaurant’s executive chef, John Carlton, had left his post during the period of closure and the venue was to remain closed in order to find a replacement.
Now it has emerged that the creditor which took the High Court action against California Leisure Ltd was London-based Enotria Wine Cellars Limited.
A spokesman for the UK Insolvency Agency said as a result of the liquidation California Leisure Ltd “ceases to exist”.
But the spokesman said it was not know if Arbeias had been set up as a separate limited company - under which circumstances the outlet could reopen.
He added: “Jane Branley as the director and secretary has been written to to come for an interview and for to bring documented evidence as to any creditors the company owes money to.”
On a day-to-day basis Coun Branley’s husband, businessman and former councillor Allen Branley, had managed Arbeias with support and advice from another former councillor, Ahmed Khan.
When contacted Coun Branley, who is known to have suffered from recent ill-health, said: “I don’t know anything about this, speak to Allen.”
Mr Khan, owner of Simply Workwear, in Westoe, said he was unaware of the winding up owner.
He said: “I’ve been out of the country for some time in southern Russia and I’m playing catch-up.
“We still haven’t been able to recruit a gourmet chef. Pizza/pasta chefs are ten a penny but that’s not what the restaurant is all about.”
Mr Khan said there had also been interest expressed in taking over the business from, among others, an Indian restaurant chain in Bradford.
“There are a few options in the melting pot,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Enotria Wine Cellars Limited said the company did not wish to comment.
The Gazette was unable to contact Mr Branley for comment.