Bison Arms plans dropped despite raising £150,000 via crowdfunding

By Fred A'Court

- Last updated on GMT

So near and yet so far: 21-month battle ends in defeat
So near and yet so far: 21-month battle ends in defeat

Related tags: Renting, Lease

Campaigners trying to set up a new pub in Brighton have admitted defeat despite raising £150,000 through crowdfunding, attracting the support of local MP Caroline Lucas and gaining the backing of the lease-holding brewery.

Commenting on the end of the 21-month battle, Simon Duddington, who was brought in to set up the business said it was a case of “so near and yet so far”.

The new business would have been called the Bison Arms, to reflect a locally branded beer, and would have had a restaurant. It was to be located in a building that is currently not in use, but leased to Whitbread and owned by a private landlord.

Duddington said: “With additional investment arranged through the team behind a Brighton restaurant and an additional private investor, we presented our compelling offer to the outgoing leaseholder, Whitbread, and the private landlord.”

Complex deal

A complex deal was agreed in principle, he said, adding: “It felt like a huge achievement with our focus then directed to tying up the loose ends. But what followed was 18 months of solicitor action that we still struggle to understand fully. We have a significant legal bill to show for the work that has been done.” He praised the brewery for trying to get the deal settled.

“Whitbread, to their credit, moved to support us throughout the negotiations by instructing a detailed survey on the dilapidations which were fully costed at £242,000 and verified by our quantity surveyors. They also agreed to cover the rent remaining on the lease of £72,000 per annum until 2019.”

The only risk left for the landlord, Duddington claimed, was the guarantee of fit-out works. In a bid to get round this obstacle a further £80,000 was ring fenced to increase the rent deposit to £100,000.

Even as late as the end of May all documents were agreed by all parties with exchange of contracts in sight, he said. However, more liability was requested, he said, which was refused.

“The deal on the table was one that we honestly believed reflected the months of hard work put in to benefit all parties and protect each in kind. We reiterated the fact to the landlord that having a new tenant ready to move in offering such a strong business proposition, coupled with significantly increased rent at £100,000 is a circumstance highly unlikely to repeat itself.”

Deadlines but no agreement

“It’s with heavy hearts that we’ve instructed our solicitor to formally withdraw our offer” he said.

Thanking everyone for what he admitted was an ambitious project he added “It felt for so long as if we were in touching distance of making this a reality. We will now look to the future with lessons learned, ready for a new challenge.”

Related topics: Property law

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