Popular bar changes hands leaving staff out in the cold

STAFF at one of the town’s top restaurants were not told it was being sold to a British pub chain until the venue closed.

More than 20 people worked at the Tunbridge Wells Bar & Grill, which closed with immediate effect last week, after owners, Individual Restaurants, sold the High Street eatery to Young’s.

The new owners say they intend to turn the venue, which opened in 2007, back into a ‘local pub in the truest sense’ and will be reverting to its former name of the ‘White Bear’ – a popular venue with pub-goers in the town in the 1980s and 90s.

It is expected to re-open at some point later in the summer following an ‘extensive refurbishment’.

This will be little comfort to the full-time and part-time staff members who have been told they have to either find a new job or wait until the new venue re-opens when they might be considered for work.

One bartender who did not want to be named, told the Times: “They just told us the night before.

“They gave us a choice of either working at another bar miles away or wait for this new place to open.

“I was told I’d get paid a reduced rate of just £29 a day for this week.

“But they never gave us any notice. They must have known about the sale. It is no way to treat people who have worked for you. Even my manager did not know about it.”

Individual Restaurants, which also owns celebrity chef Gino D’acampo’s restaurants in London, as well as Italian chain Piccolino, said it was a ‘unique situation’ and the building’s owner had forced the sale.

Steven Walker, founder of Individual Restaurants, said: “After 12 wonderful years, we have decided to sell the Bar & Grill.

“The owner of the building wanted to sell to an opportunistic buyer but the deal involved our lease.

“Our strategy is to open restaurants, not sell them, but this was a unique situation.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our incredible team in Tunbridge Wells, you our loyal guests and the local community for all the support we have received since we opened.”

A spokesman for new owners, Young’s, said they were ‘delighted’ to have acquired the Tunbridge Wells Bar & Grill and would be considering taking on its staff.

He said: “We are currently consulting with all staff to discuss future employment opportunities.”



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