Rose and Crown Hotel owner launches compensation bid as he fights winding-up order

WISBECH hotelier Jonathan Davies was in defiant mood last night after dismissing a winding up petition by the taxman and claiming council officials and police were frustrating his bid to stay in business.

“Winding-up petitions get issued the whole time and we have never let it beat us,” he said.

Mr Davies, co-owner of the Rose & Crown and more recently of the White Lion as well, claimed little was being done to promote the town and that parking policies were sending trade elsewhere.

He said both he and his partner Jacqueline Noot were preparing a �1 million claim for compensation against the council for lack of promotion of his hotels in their tourism strategy and for maladministration in planning which he says has meant access difficulties.

He is also angry that despite his best endeavours he has been unable to sell alcohol at the White Lion because of objections and that this was damaging his reputation and trade.

“We cannot suffer any more,” he said. “What Wisbech needs is more support for people like us, more done to improve tourism and more done to help businesses survive.

“What do they want? Another empty building on the Market Place? Another two hotels, as it might turn out, to remain empty? I’m angry, frustrated and upset”.

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He said his Christmas trade was non existent two years ago following fire regulation inspections and he was only now beginning to recover.

Mr Davies and Ms Noot have been served a winding-up petition by HM Revenue and Customs.

The petition to wind up the partnership was served on August 27 and creditors have been invited to attend a formal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand at 10.30am on Wednesday.

But Mr Davies said he would come out fighting against the order- as he had done on four separate occasions in recent years.

“It’s how they work,” he said. “We have engaged a legal team to contest the application but the fact remains we are still here, still in business and still doing our best for the people of Wisbech and for the staff we employ”.

Earlier this week, the hotel was under siege from bailiffs who parked outside whilst police turned away visitors to the 600-year-old hotel.

Mr Davies was seen resisting attempts to seize goods which follow an unpaid council tax bill.

During a visit to the hotel, we met worried Wisbech resident Louise Hall, who had booked to renew her wedding vows at the hotel next year.

She said: “I heard rumours that he is in financial trouble. I have actually started looking at other venues.”

Mrs Hall had booked 10 rooms for the ceremony, with 150 guests due to travel from London.

When she confronted staff about whether her booking was in jeopardy, they told her that the member of staff she needed to speak to wasn’t in.

She said: “I haven’t paid any money yet but I’m due to. I don’t want to if it’s not going to happen. I just want to know where I stand.

“I’m scared that I’m going to have to find another venue and it’s going to be hell.”

The Rose & Crown had been the project of television’s straight talking Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi - the niece of renowned hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.

The Channel 5 show, screened last July, saw Mrs Polizzi try to revive the business which she claimed was being ruined by mountains of paperwork and collectables hoarded by Mr Davies, an ex-antiques dealer.

An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC’s aim is not to wind up companies or make individuals bankrupt but to collect as efficiently as we can the debts that are due.

“HMRC only enters winding-up or bankruptcy action where it believes this is the best course of action to protect the interests of the Exchequer in respect of a particular debt. We do not take such action lightly.”

Last month a woman who had an affair with Mr Davies assaulted a family member at the hotel.

At Fenland Magistrates’ Court 43-year-old Margaret Cassidy, who once lived at the hotel but now lives in Palmers Drive, Wisbech, and admitted assault. In January she had been jailed for 22 weeks for assaulting Mr Davies whilst under the influence of drink.

Cassidy will be sentenced on November 2. She is on conditional bail.

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