The founder of troubled beer firm Hop Stuff has appealed to customers to keep visiting its bars in Woolwich and Deptford after its Thamesmead brewery was repossessed by its landlord.
Hop Stuff’s troubles made national headlines at the weekend when The Sunday Times reported that a construction company had taken a winding-up order against it because it had not been paid for work on a bar in Ashford, Kent, which opened in May 2018.
According to the paper, the winding-up order – which was due to be heard at Medway County Court in Chatham in March – was seen off after the debt was paid, but Nick Smith, the managing director of C&S, the company that took the action, told The Sunday Times: “The word ‘entrepreneur’ is bandied around in this day and age, and they think it means you can rack up a huge debt and not pay it back.”
Brewing at Hop Stuff’s site in White Hart Avenue stopped in January after the company failed to update a document on beer duty with HM Revenue & Customs, according to an email sent to customers by James Yeomans, who began the company with his wife Emma in 2013.
The error meant the company was paying the duty from its old brewery in the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, rather than its new premises, and the company had to halt production for four weeks, Yeomans said.
In February, the company returned to trading, but after “a near £1-200,000 loss of income” it was “a little late” in paying its rent, Yeomans told customers.
Hop Stuff moved into the White Hart Avenue base last year, but faced opposition from its landlord for its plans to serve alcohol there. Greenwich Council brushed aside the objections and gave it a licence last August. Property group Peabody bought the freehold to the industrial estate in March 2018, according to Land Registry records. Hop Stuff occupies two units, one is leased to the University of Cambridge and one is directly owned by Peabody.
“Owing to a fractious relationship since their purchase of the freehold since their purchase of the freehold six months after we moved in, the landlord chose to use this as a foreclosure opportunity (or an opportunity to reset the relationship) which left us stranded,” he wrote.
According to Yeomans, the company is working to “meet the challenge” of paying arrears, a deposit and rent in advance.
“Please bear with me and the team – continue to visit the Taprooms which are still open and trading, and I will try to have an update and course of action for you ASAP,” he said.
Yeomans is now the company’s sole director, after his wife Emma left its board earlier this month, according to Companies House records. He did not address the row over the bar in Ashford in his email.
On Tuesday lunchtime, beer kegs and gas canisters were being removed from the White Hart Avenue site, with seizure notices placed on the units, warning that anything left behind after 25 April – last Thursday – would be sold off. A security guard who emerged from the units confirmed that the property was still under the control of the landlord.
Hop Stuff began with the aim of brewing ale for festivals, opening with £58,000 raised from investors through the investment platform Crowdcube. Many of its initial investors were from the Woolwich and Plumstead areas. It rode the craft beer boom on the back of crowdfunding appeals – and last year it raised over £770,000 for further expansion. In total, it has raised over £1.5m from investors.
It runs three Taproom bars – one close to its original Royal Arsenal brewery, another in Deptford’s Market Yard development and the bar in Ashford. Plans for a fourth Taproom, in east Greenwich, were abandoned last August after Greenwich Council refused to give it a licence for outdoor drinking.
Yeomans notes “third party interest” in the company in his email, raising the possibility that the company could be sold. Many of London’s craft brewers have fallen to multinational companies in recent years. Bermondsey-based Fourpure was snapped up by Australian company Lion last year, while Heineken has taken minority stakes in Beavertown and Brixton Brewery. Even the venerable Fullers has sold out to Asahi of Japan, which also owns Meantime, the Greenwich-based brewer that pioneered the craft beer boom.
Hop Stuff did not immediately respond to a request for comment from 853.
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