Lerpwl owners' huge debts revealed amid plans for new restaurant

The owners of the now-closed city centre restaurant, Lerpwl are revealed to be in a huge amount of debt, owing money to employees, HMRC and £100k to a family member.

Brothers Liam and Ellis Barrie opened Lerpwl on the Albert Dock in 2020 after finding success at their first restaurant, The Marram Grass in Anglesey.

The Marram Grass closed the following year during the coronavirus pandemic. Lerpwl was closed last year in the midst of the cost of living crisis, with the Liverpool-born brothers claiming the landlord demanded a £30,000 payment in a dispute over pandemic rent debt.

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Now they are planning to launch the Y Marram restaurant back in Anglesey - with TV and Michelin star chefs lined up to host special evenings, reports NorthWalesLive.

However, Companies House records show they left owing more than £1m from those previous ventures - including staff wages and tips, money to suppliers, a bounce back loan and cash to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs' (HMRC). These failures did come at an incredibly difficult time for the sector - with the pandemic closely followed by a cost of living crisis that has hit hospitality very hard.

But a local said there is some ill-feeling over the debts now they are starting afresh. The owners were asked to comment but declined at this stage. A source said they had put everything into the two businesses.

Conellia Ltd, the registered company behind the Marram Grass, was only officially dissolved in April this year following liquidation. A final liquidators' report from Cowgills stated there were debts of just under £400,000.

This included over £120k to the HMRC in unpaid VAT, PAYE and National Insurance payments. There was £100k in a loan from a family member.

Lerpwl in the Royal Albert Dock
Lerpwl in the Royal Albert Dock -Credit:ECHO

It showed claims of £85,000 from 14 employees. This included arrears of wages, unpaid accrued holiday, outstanding pension contributions and claims for redundancy and pay in lieu of notice. They were also owed £11,000 in "gratuities" which the liquidator said were "paid by customers but not paid to staff".

There were also £12,000 worth of vouchers purchased but not redeemed and they owed £50,000 from a bounce back loan - which was introduced to help businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

There were insufficient funds to make any payments to creditors. While the liquidation has only recently been completed the closure happened in the midst of the pandemic - with the hospitality sector affected by enforced closures and multiple restrictions.

A liquidators' report from RSM UK has just been released for Lerpwl.

This shows that £771k is owed in total to creditors - including £274k to the HMRC and nearly £90,000 to banks and consumer creditors. There's £50k owed to their landlord and just under £40k to trade creditors. In addition there is just over £200k owed in HP/lease agreements and £108k to "associated creditors". The liquidators don't expect to make any dividend payments to creditors.

The closure of Lerpwl came as the cost of running a restaurant business spiralled in the UK as the price of energy, supplies and staffing rose dramatically. These circumstances led to a spike in restaurant closures.

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