Helsby Arms staff left out of pocket following sudden closure of pub
Staff at a Helsby pub say they were left to ‘pick up the pieces’ after their landlord suddenly shut the premises without warning.
Last week the Chronicle reported that The Helsby Arms had suddenly closed its doors, with no explanation from landlord Mark Fitzgerald who appears to have gone into hiding since shutting the pub on September 14.
The pub’s manager, Karen Fellows, was preparing to open the pub as usual that morning when she received a call from Mr Fitzgerald, telling her he had decided to close and that he was leaving it to her to inform the nine other members of staff.
When asked what he planned to do about paying the staff almost £2,000 in two weeks worth of owed wages, he answered: ‘I’m sorry, I’m skint’, before putting the phone down.
Since then, Karen has been in touch with Mr Fitzgerald who apologised and said he wants to pay all the money back, but she has been left ‘devastated’ after having to pull out of a trip to Jamaica for a wedding where her partner was due to be a best man.
“We’re obviously devastated by missing out on the holiday but it’s not just me who’s been affected by this – we’ve all lost out,” she said.
“We all relied on those wages and this has disrupted everyone’s lives.
“It’s been such a shock. The night before he called me, everything had seemed normal and Mark didn’t mention a thing to me, so it was like a bolt from the blue.
“I’ve since found out he owes rent money, utility bills and money to local suppliers – everything, and some of those are small local businesses that can’t afford not to be paid!
“If he’d told us he was in trouble we’d have tried to help but it’s just how he’s gone about it that’s upset us all – he just left me to pick up the pieces.
“I spoke to him last week and he said he wanted to pay us all back but I don’t know how he can when he couldn’t even afford to pay his meat bill!”
Karen added: “In his defence he came into the business with the best intentions but just didn’t have enough capital to put into it.”
A spokesman for pub owners Punch Taverns said a legal process has been started to release the pub from Mr Fitzgerald, and they hope to reopen it in the near future: “We are working with our legal team to confirm a court date of October 16 to seek possession of the pub,” he said.“Until then, we cannot comment on when the pub will be reopening.”