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Questions over banned Shoreditch company director Robert Newmark’s links to Hampstead restaurant

PUBLISHED: 12:07 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:23 06 September 2018

Beach Blanket Babylon founder Robert Newmark at his Hampstead home in 2015. Picture: Tom Dunkley

Beach Blanket Babylon founder Robert Newmark at his Hampstead home in 2015. Picture: Tom Dunkley

Archant

There are grounds to suspect the former director of Rosslyn Hill Ltd – which ran Shoreditch restaurant Beach Blanket Babylon – may be breaching a court order by helping run a restaurant business in Hampstead, the Advertiser can reveal.

Beach Blanket Babylon is in Shoreditch. Pic: Ken MearsBeach Blanket Babylon is in Shoreditch. Pic: Ken Mears

Staff at Café Hampstead say they are owed thousands of pounds in unpaid wages amid stock shortages and cashflow problems at the fashionable restaurant.

In January, the Advertiser revealed former staff at Shoreditch restaurant Beach Blanket Babylon had taken Robert Newmark to a tribunal over unpaid wages.

And the Advertiser can reveal there are grounds to suspect disqualified company director Mr Newmark, who was banned from being involved in “the management of a company in any way” by a court in 2016, may be breaching that order by helping run the business in Hampstead.

Cafe Hampstead’s owner Conor Thomson-Moore yesterday said Mr Newmark did not run the business and was not involved in its management, but that: “Robert has provided advice when I’ve requested it given his years of experience in the restaurant industry.”

Mr Newmark, through his lawyers, denied “being involved in the running of the business”, and said the consultancy advice he gives Cafe Hampstead Ltd was not “in a management role and is not contrary to the restrictions placed upon him as a disqualified director”.

He said he had not breached the order in any other way.

Café Hampstead in Rosslyn Hill. Picture: Polly HancockCafé Hampstead in Rosslyn Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

Yet text message conversations between Mr Newmark and workers appear to show he is still dealing with staff, stock ordering and wage disputes, and has even ploughed his own money in to keep Cafe Hampstead afloat.

More than a dozen staff are said to be owed wages by Café Hampstead according to two former employees.

One, Yoanna Petrova, worked at the restaurant for three months.

She handed in her notice after witnessing a fight between two colleagues in the middle of the restaurant on the evening of August 14.

According to Yoanna and her boyfriend Andreas Triebe, who has also since left Café Hampstead, at least 13 staff are owed wages in some form. From what they have been told, they believe the amount is about £8,000, with Yoanna herself owed £1,257.

Café Hampstead Ltd is listed on Companies House as only having one director and shareholder: 23-year-old Mr Thomson-Moore.

But messages apparently sent by Mr Newmark to staff, seen by this newspaper, suggest he has been helping run the business himself in recent months.

But Mr Newmark’s lawyers told the Advertiser the cash had been provided from his own personal funds because he was worried the failure of Cafe Hampstead could impact its landlord, of which is a shareholder.

Both Mr Newmark and his son Brett were struck off as directors of Rosslyn Hill Ltd, which managed Beach Blanket Babylon in 2016. According to the order, neither can be “the director of a company whether directly or indirectly, or be involved in the management of a company in any way for the duration of their disqualification unless they have permission from court”.

The order lasts for five years for Robert, and three-and-a-half years for his son.

The Insolvency Service says “management of a company” may include but not be limited to “ordering, paying or negotiating with suppliers or customers, renting or buying business premises, hiring or firing employees, dealing with the company bank account”, and “taking executive decisions as to the company’s affairs or making it seem that you are in a position to take such decisions”.

Yoanna and Andreas have both found other jobs, but have persisted to ask Mr Newmark for the money they are owed.

Staff are now considering a class action case against Café Hampstead Ltd to get their wages back.

“It’s been really stressful,” said Yoanna. “I had been saving up money to move house, so I have money I can use, but it means I now have to stay where I am.”

Cafe Hampstead did not respond to questions about wages or supply problems.

The Advertiser has passed its evidence to the Insolvency Service.

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