The owner of Chester’s Friends-themed cafe Central Perk says he was left with ‘no choice’ but to close the popular shop and expressed his fears for the future of other local businesses in the city.
Nigel Russell, who also owns the Liverpool-based coffee shop of the same name, said it had been a ‘very sad’ decision to shut the shop’s Chester branch earlier this month, but was losing so much money due to high rates that he was forced to ‘cut his losses’.
Speaking exclusively to The Chronicle, Mr Russell said: “As a business it’s a very sad situation for us. The rates were just so much higher in Chester than what we were paying in Liverpool, that although we tried to appeal and keep going, we were losing so much money that it got to the point where we just couldn’t afford to lose any more.
'We had to cut our losses'
“Last year we were down 40% so we made a decision that we couldn’t go on and we decided to cut our losses. Although the council don’t own the building they still assess the rates and we did not feel we were supported by them and we had little encouragement. In Liverpool we feel we do get support from the local authority but have always found Chester very difficult.”
Related : Central Perk Chester closes its doors
Mr Russell, who has invested half a million pounds into the Central Perk shops which are based on the hit TV show Friends, explained: “All the shops in Chester have different rates and we were paying much higher rates than some others. It doesn’t make it easy for local businesses and to be honest, it seems like every day a shop is closing in Chester. They’re dropping like flies.
“We feel very sad about it and it was a very hard decision for us but losing that kind of money every year was getting too much - our tiny shop in Liverpool was making more money than the one on one of Chester’s main streets.”
He added: “The local authority just aren’t being co-operative. If they want to encourage small businesses in the city I would say something needs to change.”
Councillor David Armstrong, Cheshire West and Chester Council's (CWaC)Cabinet Member for Legal and Finance, said: “We recognise that businesses face a range of challenges and we are committed helping them to thrive in any way that we can.
“Business rates are worked out based on the property’s rateable value. Central Government sets the Business Rates Multiplier which is used to calculate the rate charged, and it is the duty of the council to collect business rates and ensure that any reliefs that are applicable are applied.
“We can confirm that this business had received the relief that it was entitled to and the business rates were calculated correctly. We cannot comment on the rent charged, as this property is not owned by CWaC.”