Hospitality & Tourism

Published: April 23, 2020 | Updated: April 23, 2020

‘Devastated’ directors tell wedding couples: “We have acted honourably and responsibly”

Tony Beales, of Beales Gourmet, pictured before the company was placed in administration on March 30.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Beales Gourmet Directors Tony and Molly Beales have insisted they acted in the best interests of clients by placing their gourmet catering and events company into administration.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the high-profile business called in the administrators, Molly told Dorset Biz News: “We acted honourably and responsibly.”

The Italian Villa in Poole which was leased to Beales Gourmet Ltd, now in administration.

She added: “We are sorry for everyone who has been affected by this situation.

“We left a substantial amount of money in the business and I believe clients will get a good proportion of it back.”

Beales Gourmet Ltd was placed in administration on March 30 as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, founded in 2005, hosted wedding and corporate events at The Italian Villa in Poole’s Compton Acres.

It also provided outside catering for weddings, corporate and private functions in other locations around the UK including Lulworth Castle, Highcliffe Castle, Sopley Mill and Sunninghill House.

As reported, the joint administrators, David Meany and Andrew Watling, of Quantuma LLP, have now agreed the lease of The Italian Villa can be surrendered back to Compton Acres Ltd as landlord.

The agreement means that bookings and events can resume at The Italian Villa as soon as the government loosens the current lockdown restrictions.

The agreement does not include Beales Gourmet Ltd as a going concern.

Couples rebooking will have to pay again for their weddings as their original contract was with Beales Gourmet Ltd.

Molly said Beales Gourmet Ltd had approximately 200 event bookings for the six months up to September 30 with “about 65 to 70 per cent” [130 to 140] involving weddings at either The Italian Villa or other venues.

She said: “Following the restrictions imposed by the government due to the coronavirus outbreak – and with no certainty of when we would be able to run events again, – we acted quickly to preserve client monies in the business in order to ensure that clients could receive refunds on deposits paid for their weddings and events.

“If the directors had chosen to carry on trading under the current conditions, this would have drained client monies, which would have been irresponsible.

“We were not prepared to do this.”

Molly declined to disclose the amount of client money involved.

She also admitted costs for the administrators, as well as money owed to other creditors, would affect the final amount refunded to wedding couples.

Molly said: “Like many businesses, Beales Gourmet is a seasonal business.

“Not being able to run weddings and events during what should be our busiest time put the business in a position where it would not be able to recover from its losses.

“We have heard of other events companies going into administration with no client deposits left in the business.

“This is something we would never have been prepared to do.

“We have been working around the clock helping the administrators and Compton Acres Ltd, in order to ensure that many of the weddings and events can still take place.

“We appreciate that this is an extremely difficult time for everyone involved.

“We felt it was important for clients to understand that we’ve acted in their best interests.”

Molly said that although she was aware of wedding payments being made just days before the company was placed in administration, this was probably the result of some outstanding invoices being settled.

In the 35-minute telephone interview with Dorset Biz News, Molly broke down as she described the effect the business collapse has had on herself and Tony.

She said: “It has been devastating.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last 15 years to build our business up, always working in the most ethical and honourable way possible.

“We could not have predicted the coronavirus pandemic or its effects.

“We have always been immensely proud of our business.

“To lose it like this is devastating for us.”

Molly added that they had not even thought about the future and denied any suggestion the couple might try and resurrect Beales Gourmet.

She said: “We have no plans and are just living as frugally as we can.

“This has been an extremely stressful, and distressing, time for us all but I do feel for the brides and grooms.

“I just want them to know that we have acted honourably and responsibly throughout.”