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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Cumbrian restaurant closes, owing £57,000 in rent

A popular Carlisle restaurant has closed – its entire contents having been spirited away in the middle of the night.

Teza restaurant photo
Teza restaurant in Botchergate

And now the landlord and owner are in bitter dispute over nearly £60,000 in rent and fixtures and fittings.

Last Wednesday morning, Teza in Botchergate was a fully functioning eatery, complete with tables, chairs, a fully equipped kitchen and exotic house plants, and framed pictures.

But by early the next day it had been completely stripped, with several discarded and crumpled red napkins the only clue to the previous history of the property.

Witnesses reported that men in vans arrived shortly before midnight on Wednesday, and spent four hours stripping the premises of its contents.

The landlord, London-based Workstone Limited, and the owner of the business, Guarav Sharma, are now locked in a bitter dispute over rent.

Mr Sharma, 43, who said he went into the restaurant business after leaving his job as a British Airways pilot for medical reasons, insists that he has done nothing wrong.

But Khal Moulem, the Carlisle-based agent for the landlord, insisted that the removed contents of the property belong to his client.

Bailiffs went into the restaurant last Thursday and posted a notice on to the front door, which said the tenant owes £56,700 in rent.

But Mr Sharma, a father-of-two, said: “I don’t know what we’re going to do now.

“Eight people worked at Teza and now they don’t have their livelihoods. We put £200,000 into that business.”

He insisted he had paid his rent regularly, but in his view the level of rent being demanded was too high.

He said: “I have two children, but I’ve had to take them out of their private school because I could no longer afford it.

“We couldn’t continue to operate the [the business in those circumstances, and with that level of rent. We couldn’t survive any more.

Mr Sharma claimed that the rent amounted to £1,700 a week – though that figure is disputed by the landlord.

“I requested that they reduce the rent a million times,” added Mr Sharma, who is now living in London.

He claimed he left equipment worth £50,000 in the otherwise empty restaurant. Mr Moulem said: “We have decided to repossess the property because when we got in there it looks as if they’ve stripped the place.

“We have looked at the CCTV, and it shows a van arriving at midnight on Wednesday.

“Everything is now gone – chairs, tables, the hi-fi, drinks, even vases. We went in to protect what’s left.”

Mr Moulem said the landlord company takes the view that the contents of the building belong to it, and he said that he believes there may be documentation with Carlisle City Council to back that up.

Cumbria police confirmed today they had been informed that the locks at the premises were changed following an “incident” last Wednesday.

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