Chef reveals anger at offer to quit Maltings

A well-known Berwick restaurateur has rejected the chance to terminate his lease at The Maltings Kitchen.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 10:40 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2016, 09:44 am
David Foxton at the Maltings Kitchen

Last month, trustees at The Maltings gave David Foxton the opportunity to give up the remaining three years of his tenancy agreement by March 29.

But Mr Foxton responded: “To ask me to gift you a successful business with six weeks notice that has trebled both its turnover and relevant footfall to The Maltings during the worst ever recession, simply beggars belief.”

In a letter to the trustees, he adds: “I am drawing up plans for remuneration should you either close the theatre productions and/or the building itself. You would probably save money overall in your budget by buying me out.

“In the event of completing my lease I have talked with potential developers and I and my team will simply empty the Maltings Kitchen and move with my customers. You can then do what you want with the empty space.”

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The issue was also raised by a member of the public at a meeting of Berwick Town Council.

There was particular concern that the trustees’ offer, should it be accepted, would require the need for a non-competition order to prevent Mr Foxton trading in Berwick.

However, Matthew Rooke, Maltings chief executive, said: “It is simply untrue that The Maltings Kitchen has been given notice to terminate its lease.

“What is true is that over recent months David Foxton has repeatedly mentioned to The Maltings that he wanted to explore options enabling him to dispose of his business commitments for health reasons, and to pursue other interests. The business was advertised for sale, and the Board of The Maltings sought professional advice on the feasibility of taking over the restaurant.

“Following a meeting with David in February at which he shared his plans for the future, The Maltings put forward a business proposal for him to consider alongside any other options.

“The Maltings offered to (i) write-off the c. £60,000 that David Foxton is committed to paying the Trust for the remainder of his lease, (ii) pay a fair market price for his stock, fixtures and fittings, and (iii) assume responsibility for his staff’s contracts, including accumulated service, pensions, etc.

“We also proposed a continuing relationship with David Foxton, such as hosting cookery master-classes and providing a base for his proposed new commercial dressings and pickles business and help with promoting them. It would be common practice in such situations for the two parties to agree a non-compete clause for an agreed period after the changeover.

“David wrote to The Maltings Trust on 12 February rejecting this proposal and I wrote back the same day accepting his position and confirming that his lease is valid through to 2018 and would naturally continue as normal. There was absolutely no threat of termination.

“I am astonished that all this time after the matter was closed between the two parties, this has somehow been turned into an entirely groundless news story.

“How can a charity responding in good faith to a potential change in its business by offering a tenant the option of walking away from tens of thousands of pounds of liabilities and assisting him in establishing a new business be misrepresented in some quarters as something reprehensible?”