Shop owner locked out of store after dispute with landowners
A shop owner has been locked out of his store after a dispute with the landowners.
George Bennett, who owns Jorge Artisan Foods at Belvoir Castle's Engine Yard, has been told to leave the premises by May.
Bennett claims that he has been "copied, deceived and treated appallingly" by the landowners over the five years he has run his shop.
He says that the landowners have forced out other businesses at the retail park, including Cafe Allez and The Idle Mole garden centre.
Bennett also claims that the landowners plan to open a new farm shop next door to his store, selling similar products.
The Engine Yard has denied Bennett's claims, saying that the closure of Jorge Artisan Foods was due to "long-standing and significant rent arrears".
The spokesperson said that the decision was taken as "a last resort" after being unable to agree a payment plan with the tenant over a "prolonged period" of negotiation.
Bennett has thanked his customers for their support and says that he hopes to find a new location for his shop soon.
Grantham Journal Article
The Grantham Journal reported that the popular shop in The Engine Yard retail area has been forced out of his premises by the Estate's management company.
A catalyst seems to be the closure of the popular coffee shop, Cafe Allez, which was based in the car park of Belvoir Castle, just across the road.
George Bennett was quoted as saying, "The remaining shops have held back on some of the rent because, quite simply, no one’s taken it, due to their actions.
"They've brought in a new management company, who by themselves have a conflict of interest, because they are here to set up yet another farm shop for the estate, selling what everyone else already sells.
"They want to knock the buildings together and take all the trade, so need us out."
In December, two more businesses at the Engine Yard closed. The Idle Mole garden centre said it had closed as a result of poor footfall, while the owner of B Jewellery cited "parking charges and bad management choices" as reasons for closure.
George said: "[Belvoir Castle] asked us to the Engine Yard when it was a new project in 2018 – to be the deli on site for a lease of 10 years.
"We invested money to open the shop, put our own floor in, all the rest.
"It was requested that we included in our existing ranges fresh cheese, charcuterie, bakery, so there would be the offering available on site.
"It was stated by the project manager and the commercial director representing the estate at the time that we and the butchers would be the only food retailers on site – excluding the chocolate shop and café.
Perhaps the most significant accusation made by Mr Bennett, was that the Estate used the name of his business to order from his suppliers.
"Since then, there has been a sustained and overt attempt by the castle to copy not only us, but Café Allez and others – there has been orders sent to suppliers, by the estate, in my name.
"They opened a farm shop next door to us, selling similar products, even though in communication with them over the five years they repeatedly stated that this was not the intention, and wouldn't be the case. This has been continuous."
George explained that he paid full rent and service charges during the Covid lockdowns, "even though services weren't being provided and contractors were on furlough".
He added: "The car parking, and subsequent customer fines, killed the trade on return.
"The locals don't and won't support the site because of them. This, along with them opening in competition with us every two minutes, has heavily impacted our and everyone's trade over the last 18 months.
"There has been virtually zero footfall since Christmas, so no one has any income."
The Engine Yard claimed that the closure of Jorge Artisan Foods was due to "long-standing and significant rent arrears".
“Our priority now is to install a new tenant offering more of the high quality goods and services that Engine Yard customers are familiar with and have enjoyed for many years."
Commenters on the Grantham Journal article wishes Mr Bennett well and suggested her would be very welcome in Grantham if he chose to set up in a premises in the town.
The dispute between George Bennett and the landowners is a complex one. There are clearly strong feelings on both sides. It is important to note that both parties have made allegations against each other, and that these allegations have not been proven in court.