Hospitality & Tourism

Published: April 17, 2020 | Updated: April 17, 2020

‘Everyone is in total shock’ says bride who is one of up to 200 affected by business collapse

Shannon Smith, pictured with her fiance Kirk Morton. The 24-year-old has started a Facebook group for the estimated 200 wedding couples affected by the collapse of Beales Gourmet Limited.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

The founder of a Facebook group for brides caught up in the collapse of a Dorset catering and events company believes up to 200 couples could have had their wedding plans ruined.

Shannon Smith, who is due to get married to fiancé Kirk Morton at Poole’s The Italian Villa in September, said some couples had paid more than £10,000 and feared losing all their money.

“Everyone is in total shock and can’t believe what’s happened,” she said.

Dorset Biz News revealed on April 9 that Beales Gourmet Limited, owned by Tony and Molly Beales, had been placed in administration.

The story – the most viewed since our launch last October – quickly spread across social media.

Beales Gourmet hosted wedding and corporate events at The Italian Villa at 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.

Approximately 250 events, including weddings, have been booked for coming months.

A total of 220 weddings were hosted at The Italian Villa last year.

Shannon, 24, said that, like other couples affected, she had learned of Beales Gourmet’s demise from Dorset Biz News and the subsequent sharing of our story on social media.

In just five days her private Facebook group has grown to 106 members of which about 85 are couples planning to get married at The Italian Villa.

Shannon said: “We booked our wedding at The Italian Villa two years ago and so far have paid £3,500 but others have paid their wedding in full, more than £10,000.

“Some have received letters from the administrators in which they say they have a slim chance of getting their money back. It’s absolutely terrible.

“The Italian Villa is such a popular venue and every year they’re fully booked so I think there could be around 200 couples affected by this.

“The alarm bells started ringing when they shut down their Facebook page and also said they were closed for redecoration.

“We live in Ascot but have always loved Sandbanks and Bournemouth. The Italian Villa was the only wedding venue we saw and we chose it right away.

“This whole thing doesn’t seem real but we can’t afford to wait to see what will happen and are now looking at other venues.”

Shannon added that couples hoping their insurance would cover the loss of any wedding payments could be in for a shock.

She said: “We’ve heard that some insurance companies are being difficult and say people aren’t covered because of the pandemic.

“Couples are in a real Catch-22. Do they sit and wait in the hope that something will happen in the next couple of weeks to help them or do they try and find another venue?

“It’s a desperate situation.”

David Meany and Andrew Watling, of Quantuma LLP, have been appointed Joint Administrators of Beales Gourmet Limited.

In a statement, Quantuma said:

‘Beales Gourmet entered administration as a direct result of Covid-19 and the closure of non-essential business and social distancing guidelines.

‘This resulted in the company having to cease trading during what would have been the start of the busiest period of the year, with some 250 events already booked.

‘Along with the two directors and owners, Molly and Tony Beales, the firm employs 14 permanent staff, along with 6 regular casual staff. All permanent staff have been furloughed.

‘Quantuma is actively seeking buyers for the business and welcomes any interested parties.

‘In the event that the administrators are unable to secure a sale of the business, there is still the prospect that the clients who have weddings and other events booked and have paid deposits will secure at least a partial return.’

David Meany, Partner at Quantuma, said: “Beales Gourmet is a well-respected company throughout the UK wedding and events community, and had a busy pipeline of events for the summer months.

“It is unfortunate that, the current unprecedented crisis and restrictions around social gathering, have had an impact on what was otherwise a highly successful and reputable business.

“We are exploring the possibility of securing buyers for the internal and external event sections of the business in an effort to maximise the return for clients and creditors, secure employment and potentially provide continuity for some of the clients who have weddings and other events booked.

“Clients who have booked weddings and other events can phone 01202 117554 and are asked to initially email to register their details to bealesgourmet@quantuma.com”

  • Beales Gourmet leased offices at The Italian Villa at Compton Acres. The owner of the site, Compton Acres Limited, is wholly unconnected with the board, the business, its operations and hosting of events or the administration of the company.
  • The Italian Villa Brides Facebook group can be found here.