An ugly legal row is brewing at the Custard Factory after a high-end restaurant accused its landlords of breaking promises to make the complex more upmarket.
Tensions between Matthew’s of Birmingham and the management of the Custard Factory have come to a head following a rave this month which ended in the shooting of four people.
Matthew’s has accused the Custard Factory of showing a lack of consideration by allowing promoters to stage large-scale night-time events which have resulted in the restaurant losing thousands of pounds in revenue.
The Custard Factory does not host the events itself – they are organised by a separate firm – but they take place at Space2, a building owned by the Custard Factory and let to the events company Factory Events.
But the owners of Matthew’s say that when they opened the restaurant, the Custard Factory assured them disruption from late-night parties would not continue.
They are now considering legal action against their landlords.
Matthew’s of Birmingham director Steve Gilbert said road closures and loud music coming from Space2 have meant it has had to cancel wedding receptions and other events, and he has often had to escort frightened customers to taxis. He estimated the restaurant has lost about £15,000 since December because of these issues.
He said: “We have invested a great deal of money in the restaurant and cannot afford for the business to fail due to a lack of support from our landlord.
“There has been a major failure on their part to understand our frustrations in matters concerning their management of the site and the impact of this on our business.
“We have had to close the restaurant on a number of occasions due to the music and club-based activities.”
Mr Gilbert said the restaurant was forced to cancel a wedding reception which was supposed to take place last Saturday after it found out it would clash with the Urban Music Gathering – the event where the shootings took place.
On promotional literature, the organisers of the Urban Music Gathering advertised the night as a “road block event” which would take over the Custard Factory site, attracting 4,000 ravers.
Mr Gilbert said: “We have received no apologies from the Custard Factory management team for allowing such an event to go ahead on the scale planned, and certainly no reimbursement.
“We lost £4,000 due to this cancellation and now we are struggling to pay our staff.
“We also had to close on Saturday, February 13 – Valentine’s – due to a similar music event.
“We have suffered regular disruption due to night-time activities on the site, which we were promised when we signed our lease, would be stopping. How can we charge our customers £30 per head for a meal when there are these events taking place?”
In a statement, the Custard Factory emphasised it was completely separate to the company that hosts the events.
“The Custard Factory is totally against noise pollution – especially noise that disrupts people at the Custard Factory.
“We have no control over noise made by events in Space2.
“Space2 is operated by Factory Events – an independent company over which we have no control. However we are doing everything possible to improve the situation both for ourselves and others in the neighbourhood.
“Road closures are authorised by Birmingham City Council and the Custard Factory is not notified when applications are made or permission granted.
“We believe that Gibb Street, which runs through the Custard Factory, should be closed only in the most exceptional circumstances.
“There has been a great deal of confusion between the Custard Factory and Factory Events.
“Factory Events is an independent private company completely separate from the Custard Factory.”
The shooting incident, which made national news headlines, could not have come at a worse time for the Custard Factory, which recently revealed plans to promote itself as a more upmarket, daytime-focused destination.
It comes just a couple of weeks after the launch of Zellig, a new £10 million wing offering space for creative industry firms, which benefited from £4 million in funding from regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.
Factory Events promotions and music manager Steven Carter said there would be a change of policy following the shootings at the Urban Music Gathering.
“We won’t be doing these events where we feel a minority of people ruin it,” he said. “We don’t want to get into tarnishing the whole urban music scene with one brush. Of the 1,000 people, 998 were nice people who wanted to have a good time – the other two ruined it.”
Police have said that they would ask the city council to carry out a review of the venue’s licence within the next 28 days.