One of Birmingham’s best-known restaurateurs spoke of his devastation after his business collapsed in the wake of spiralling losses.
Nick Crudgington, boss of The Bucklemaker in St Paul’s Square, called in the liquidators yesterday morning after agonising over mounting debts and falling customer numbers.
The Bucklemaker, once a stalwart of the corporate dining circuit, crashed owing an undisclosed sum, thought to be tens of thousands of pounds, becoming the most high-profile recession casualty in the city’s catering industry.
Its failure, with the loss of eight jobs, has sparked fears of a summer meltdown in the restaurant trade as operators struggle with the traditional seasonal downturn as well as the ongoing financial slump.
The Bucklemaker, renowned for its seafood and fine wines, celebrated its 21st birthday last year but Mr Crudgington said the losses had become unsustainable during the past few months.
He said: “It is irresponsible to carry on. This year has been awful. I have seen business drop off. You can only go so far before you put your hands up.
“After more than 20 years of business, I cannot get through this recession and I have had to cease trading.”
Mr Crudgington, aged 52, looked shellshocked as he told how he decided to close the business on Monday.
Looking around the basement bar and restaurant, he said: “The market has dropped right away. I was in here at 1 o’clock yesterday lunchtime and it was empty. There wasn’t anybody in. It was the first time that has happened in 20 years. I have been very worried for the past months but that was the final straw.”
The business is now in the hands of Begbies Traynor, which specialises in insolvency and corporate recovery. A shareholders’ meeting will be held at the company’s offices in Newhall Street, Birmingham this morning. A spokesman blamed the demise of The Bucklemaker on falling trade due to the recession.
Mr Crudgington is also joint partner with chef/patron Richard Turner in the Michelin-starred Turners restaurant in Harborne High Street but he stressed that the critically-acclaimed business was “completely separate” from The Bucklemaker.
“Turners is very successful and is going from strength to strength,” added Mr Crudgington.
Although suppliers are owed an unknown amount of money, Mr Crudgington said the figure was not too high because of the monthly payment structure. The largest chunk of debt is owed in unpaid tax and National Insurance contributions.
Additionally, Mr Crudgington revealed he is personally liable for the outstanding 20-year lease on the restaurant property in Mary Ann Street.
The collapse of The Bucklemaker comes just a week before the city’s major food festival, Taste of Birmingham, which starts in Cannon Hill Park on July 9.
The event features 17 of the region’s leading restaurants and ticket sales are likely to be a key barometer of the health of the dining sector.
Jabbar Khan, founder of Lasan, which will be taking part in Taste and is situated close to The Bucklemaker, said the credit crunch had been “pretty challenging” for many restaurants and some would struggle if they failed to pick up trade after the annual summer slump, particularly if they had been unable to put cash away.
Mr Khan said: “A lot of it is beyond any of businesses control. The only reason a lot of restaurants have not gone out of business is because it has become an integral of our daily life to eat out.”