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Archive - Wednesday, 27 April 2005
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£1m fall of an Empire
One of Sussex's largest restaurant empires has collapsed with crippling debts.
Time has handed redundancy notices to 24 workers and called in administrators to shore up its assets and pay a long list of creditors.
The company's five oriental restaurants are the latest in a string of eateries to close in Brighton and Hove, which has more than 400 cafes and restaurants - the highest number anywhere outside London.
Business leaders today forecast a bleak year for the restaurant trade, which contributes millions of pounds to the local economy and provides hundreds of jobs.
Tony Mernagh, chairman of the Brighton City Centre Business Forum, said: "There is no problem with the hospitality industry per se but the whole of retail is struggling nationwide.
"The problem with restaurants in Brighton, at a time when consumers are not spending like they have been, is choice.
"Brighton has the highest number of restaurants per head outside of London so there is massive choice.
"Unless you have a really slick outfit with low overheads and a good reputation things are going to be very tough and it will continue like that for the rest of this year."
Time Restaurants Ltd, a family-run company, faced debts of more than a million pounds in bank loans, suppliers' invoices, staff wages, rent and tax bills.
One of the group's restaurants in Preston Street, Brighton, has already been sold and is likely to reopen under new owners and a different name.
The other four, two in East Street, Brighton, one in Church Road, Hove, and one on the seafront in Brighton, could go on the market in the next few days.
Company records to the end of 2003 show strong annual profits for Time and turnover of around £1.5 million.
But the chain had also accrued £1.2 million in debt. Andrew White, a partner and insolvency practitioner with Bakertilly financial services, the company's administrator, said: "The situation is Time has applied for administration and is waiting on its bank to give the all-clear for that to go ahead.
"We will then go in and take stock of the finances and assets. The company is unable to pay its debts so Time is no longer a going concern."
Time is owned by Malaysian brothers Kee Min Phoon, of Shirley Drive, Hove, and Kee Choy Phoon, of Chalfont Drive, Hove, better known respectively as Ray and Simon.
Peter Cohen, the chief executive of PHS, is listed as a Time director.
The Phoons have refused to comment on the collapse of their restaurant empire and Mr Cohen could not be contacted.
Vegetarian venue Trog's, upmarket seafood restaurant Samphire and seafront cafe Lucy's have all shut since October. The Loch Fyne Fish Restaurant in Western Road is also up for sale.
Roger Marlowe, of the Brighton and Hove Hoteliers' Association, said: "Opening restaurants is one of the riskiest businesses. You have to be in the right place, at the right time and have the right food. I still think there is plenty of room in the city for restaurants. But it is always a gamble."
There are more than 40 restaurants and takeaways in Preston Street, where Time closed before Christmas.
A new Japanese and Korean restaurant, The Sushi Garden, is replacing it.
Manager TJ Park, 32, said: "There is a lot of competition here, customers are really sensitive, but if the food is good they will come back."
A new branch of China China is opening next to the former Time restaurant in Preston Street. Manager Tom Tan, 38, said: "The closure won't have an effect on any of the other restaurants because it is about what you give your customer."
April 27, 2005