By Felix Nobes and Les Reid
A POPULAR Coventry cafe and delicatessen has closed with distraught former staff saying they are owed thousands of pounds.
An application was lodged this week for the company to be struck off after Kendall’s of Earlsdon suddenly closed weeks ago. Companies House told us it was due to accounts being filed late – a criminal offence. They have been overdue since April.
Former staff told the Coventry Observer the business premises in Earlsdon Street had been bought out weeks ago with some involvement from Coventry councillor and businessman Rois Ali and his business associates.
He told us it could be re-opened as a cafe, but he added no final decisions had been taken.
We can confirm the Kendall’s premises, associated flats and land – at 54 to 56 Earlsdon Street – were sold at Loveitts estate agents’ auction in May for £400,000.
Debbie Evitts is listed as a Kendall’s of Earlsdon director on company documents and she ran the business. Her husband Ramon – the former Royal Oak pub owner – is still registered as the building’s owner on Land Registry documents, despite the auction sale.
Kendall’s Cafe – as it has long been popularly known – is an Earlsdon landmark and was put up for sale by Marcus and Theresa Kendall four years ago before it was taken over by Mrs Evitts.
The Kemp family are among former staff who claim they are owed thousands of pounds.
They told the Coventry Observer Mrs Evitts told them she could not afford to pay the 14 members of staff redundancy packages, their lieu of notice, excess holiday pay or their pension package.
Andrea Kemp and her daughter Emily, who was manager of the cafe, claim they have lost out on around £7,000 and £2,400 respectively.
Andrea – who had worked at the cafe for 14 years – said they were told the last day of their employment was June 16.
Emily, 23, said staff members are angry about the ‘destruction’ of ‘a lovely business’.
Emily said: “Obviously this represents the end of an era for a lot of people in Earlsdon and it was really upsetting for our customers and staff.
“We understand Debbie’s decision but since then she has acted as if she doesn’t care – when all we are doing is asking when we are getting our money.
“Some former staff can’t pay their bills.
“She hasn’t given us our letter of redundancy or our P45 – none of the documents we need to get another job.
“I am absolutely raging.”
Emily claimed staff were initially told they would be paid by June 21 but believes none of the staff has yet been paid. She said staff had since been told they should be paid in eight to 10 weeks.
The Kemps believe the total wage bill for the 14 members of staff amounts to around £28,000.
They say they wanted to buy the cafe to save the business but could not afford the rent – and they had attempted to buy it from Theresa and Marcus Kendall when they decided to hang up their aprons.
Coun Ali – the Labour city councillor, former restaurateur and businessman/landlord who owns the buildings of many restaurants and takeaways in the city – told the Coventry Observer he had not bought the business or the building, but was helping the ‘new owners’ of the premises in an advisory capacity.
He added the identity of the new owners would be revealed at a later stage, and the premises were now being refurbished. Unconfirmed reports have it that his brother bought the property, which Coun Ali would not confirm or deny to us.
He told us: “I’m helping the new owners. I was helping to do some decoration and I’m helping them with ideas with my catering hat on.
“It may stay as Kendall’s with the same name under a different company as owners. No decisions have been made yet.”
He ruled out converting it into a restaurant.
Estimating it could take six to eight weeks to re-open, he added: “It’s a nice coffee shop and it should remain as a coffee shop.”
Asked if it would also continue as a delicatessen, he said: “Competition for delicatessens is huge and you can pick all that up from supermarkets. But there may be an element of delicatessen.”
Barbara Goulden, an Earlsdon resident, said: “Practically everybody in Earlsdon either went to coffee in Kendall’s or stopped to chat to friends who were sitting outside the cafe in the sunshine.”
Other residents have contacted us with concerns, with one saying: “Kendall’s is exactly what Earlsdon needs, and now it is closed. The high street has changed for the worse in recent years, and I fear more inappropriate development under the new owners with Rois Ali’s involvement.”
We have previously revealed how several restaurant and takeaway premises in the city owned by Coun Ali – such as Ginger Orange in Kenpas Highway, Stivichall, and the Village Cafe, Tile Hill – have operated in breach of planning permission with some being served with enforcement notices, only for agreements to later be struck with council planners. Coun Ali maintained his tenants running independent businesses were responsible for the breaches.
Kendall’s of Earlsdon in Coventry was “the best deli North of London and East of Ludlow” said Chris Arnot, Coventry author and national freelance journalist, the cafe’s website boasted.
The Coventry Observer has contacted the Evitts for comment.