The collapse of the company which dominated Greenwich town centre’s leading bars and restaurants has left Greenwich Council with a six-figure hole in its finances, council documents reveal.
Greenwich Inc Trading Ltd operated venues including the Trafalgar Tavern, Admiral Hardy and Bar du Musee, and expanded to include locations at the O2, Canary Wharf as well as the Elbow Rooms pool bar chain.
The company’s business practices and near-monopolisation of Greenwich town centre’s nightlife angered many locals, who argued that quirky venues such as Bar du Musee – now a branch of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain – had been ruined by the firm.
At one point, its controversial founder Frank Dowling was one of the most influential people in Greenwich.
He was among the few supporters of a deeply unpopular scheme to redevelop Greenwich Market to include a boutique hotel – the idea was scrapped in favour of a more sympathetic revamp of the space – and was invited to the council’s private mayoral inauguration bashes at the Old Royal Naval College.
But in late 2013 the company went into liquidation after Greenwich Council filed a court order against it.
Dowling was arrested following claims of undeclared VAT and PAYE payments, but all charges were dropped in May this year after the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence at a court hearing.
He told the Evening Standard the charges were “ill-founded, ill-conceived and just plain wrong”, adding that allegations had been made by “individuals to forward their own commercial interests and accepted by authorities although they had proof to the contrary”.
With his name cleared, Dowling recently made a formal return to the Greenwich pub scene, taking charge of Hardy Inc Lease Limited, which holds the premises licence for the Admiral Hardy.
Meanwhile, Greenwich Council – whose court order prompted the Inc chain’s collapse – has given up hope of seeing its money.
Council leader Denise Hyland is now poised to write off £356,217 in business rates owed by Greenwich Inc Trading Ltd, along with a further £1,375 in costs.
A report prepared by council officers says the debts “are considered irrecoverable and recommended for write-off”. A final decision is due to be made next week.
Business rates losses are set against a £2.2m fund underwritten jointly by the council, the Greater London Authority and central government.
Away from Greenwich Inc, six-figure debts relating to an unconnected venue inside the O2 are also set to be written off.
Demaxx Holdings Limited – formerly known as Jimmy’s World Restaurants – went into administration last year and owes £132,636.
East & West Restaurants South Ltd, which was liquidated last year, racked up debts of £272,750 from the same site.