Brixton Mass and Babalou venues up for sale

Discussion in 'Brixton' started by editor, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. Laughing Toad

    Laughing Toad Turn the volume down please.

    A rare case of the landlords being too generous to their tennants.

    It makes it easier to understand how some landlords can become heartless.
  2. rastagirl

    rastagirl Member

    I sincerely hope that the directors of Mass and Babalou put their views on this saga. It is not as clear as some on this forum are suggesting. What is clear is that The Brix now has to pay rates on those venues and has no income at all from those venues. Does that make fiscal sense?

    Neither Mass nor Babalou have planning permission as nightclubs and any prospective purchaser of leases for those venues will be seriously concerned. As a Brixton resident I would like to thank those at Chicks ltd for running a business in difficult trading times. Good luck for the future.
  3. DJWrongspeed

    DJWrongspeed radio eros

    I love this bit in the report

    Given they were in debt to the Brix at the time this seems pretty mind blowing.
  4. rastagirl

    rastagirl Member

    Interesting article! Including service charges of 23% in addition to the rent the yearly cost of running both Mass and Babalou is £200,000. Add in staff costs, PRS, PPL, council tax, refuse collection, advertising, sound, lighting you then begin to see that it is a massive financial commitment to run a business of this kind. A restaurant cannot generate the cash that the Brix Trustees demands.
  5. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    If the article is correct and Chicks advised The Brix that they were becoming insolvent then repossession before this happened was almost certainly the correct course of action. Otherwise the leases would presumably get caught up for ages in the administration process making it impossible to re-let. A bit of a no win situation really.

    Mass has been trading as a club for long enough that they almost certainly benefit from 'established use' and planning would not be an issue. Chicks could have legalised/normalised the use very easily before trying to sell if they had wished to. I'm pretty sure that they went as far as submitting an application but never paid the fee so it was not considered.

    On the other hand Babalou was still a restaurant with planning restrictions preventing it from staying open past midnight and including noise restrictions when Chicks took it over. The Chicks are obviously a smart pair - they run accountancy and management consultancy services as well as managing their own leisure venues - so if they paid club prices for a venue which didn't have the necessary permissions to be run as a club they must have known there was a serious risk involved.

    I don't think they ever really had much of a vision for Babalou and that's probably why it never recovered. Since they relaunched the restaurant part, the couple of times we tried to book tables on a weekend we were told that we'd have to give up the table by 8.30 so that the place could turn into a club - so we didn't book. You just can't run a venue like that. Really it should have been hugely successful - it is such a great/unique space. Hopefully, whoever takes it over will be a little more focussed.

    I agree that it would be interesting to hear their side of the story.
  6. FrancescaB

    FrancescaB New Member

    I agree with Rastagirl. I've been trying to find out what has happened but the blog entry by Editor that drew me to this site seems extraordinarily onesided, but of course he is free to write whatever.
    It is such a shame that no effort has been made to balance out the story as has been presented with commentary from Mr Chicksand or his representative. Editor must have a close relationship with Brix to produce such an ostensibly well informed article so soon after the event - maybe he did try to get information from Chicksand to balance out the onesidedness of the piece but he sounds like such a charlatan from what has been reported I can imagine he doesn't care!!
    Personally I would have welcomed the building of the toddlers swimming pool. It seems such a good idea - family friendly, brings the building into wider community usage, cuts down on noise, etc. I can't understand why the Trustees at Brix didn't consider it more seriously?! Perhaps secretly they preferred the S&M!!;)
    BTW - Rushy, when you refer to Chicks as a smart pair above, who do you mean? I can only see reference to Mr Chicksand?
  7. Jon Dee

    Jon Dee New Member

    It is important to let everyone have some correct facts about the occupation by Chicks Limited of Mass from 2002 and Babalou (formerly Bug Bar) from 2005. Chicks Limited have made the following payments for rent and services and have also prior to occupation bailed out the Brix for unpaid rent and services due by the previous tenants as follows
    • 2002-250k paid to previous tenant who then repaid most of this to the Brix.
    • 2005-200k paid to previous tenant who then repaid most of this to the Brix.
    • From 2002 to 2012-paid in rent and services 2 million pounds.
    How come that in the case of bullets 1 and 2 despite the large amounts outstanding, no attempt was made to lock out the previous tenants.
    Since the increase in the number of late licensed premises , the no smoking ban and the onset of the recession ,the financial climate has become extremely difficult but Chicks has with the financial assistance of Mr Chicksand always until very recently kept up to date with its financial obligations.
    The main problem associated with the deterioration in the relationship between Chicks Limited and the Brix has been the attempt by the Brix to make Chicks Limited pay a substantial additional yearly service charge by Babalou because of the ambiguity of this section of the lease-not picked up by chicks Limited’s lawyer.
    The Brix not content to receive a substantial rent have submitted invoices in excess of 25k plus vat per annum for each of the 3 years from 2008 to 2010. In their calculation they have tried to pass on almost 100% of their entire running costs even though the service charge should only be in relation to the common parts of the building. (The Brix also rents out their community room and serviced offices). This is in spite of the fact that the original reason for having such a service charge was for it to be a small sinking fund to go towards any material improvements by the Church, Mass Night Club is already paying in excess of 5k per annum towards the fund and Babalou does not even use the facilities of the main building and is in effect self contained. This was an attempt by the Brix to financially blackmail Chicks Limited under the guise that they are a charity and need as much money as possible irrespective of the commercial reality or viability this had on Chicks Limited.
    Chicks Limited could not persuade the Brix that these demands were excessive and unfortunately had to seek legal advice to try and resolve the matter .In spite of going to arbitration and incurring legal fees in excess of 40k the Brix would not budge on their demands.
    Not only had Chicks Limited to contend with this legal battle ,in September out of the blue, Lambeth council advised them that both Mass Night Club and Babalou did not have planning consent to be night clubs /bars, even though both had late night music and dance licenses and had permitted use in their leases. In addition some local residents were making official complaints of loud noise coming from the venues even though the Mass and Babalou occupy an island surrounded by traffic 24 hours a day.
    It became obvious that a conspiracy was taking place to get rid of these venues.
    Chicks Limited in order to protect its assets submitted applications for lawful development certificates early in February 2012 and just before decided to put the business up for sale through one of the biggest agents in the UK DAVIS COFFER.
    In an attempt to negotiate with the Brix prior to the trial date of 3rd April an offer of 40k plus legal fees was made to their solicitors and evidence was produced of Chicks ltd accounts to verify the poor financial position .This offer was rejected by the Brix out of hand in spite of their knowing that Chicks Limited could not afford to go to court. Consequently the only course of action was to seek the advice of an insolvency practitioner. He made an appointment to meet the trustees to discuss the only possible ways forward but the next day, a day before the arranged meeting, the Brix repossessed the premises and locked Chicks Ltd. out thereby causing them to immediately lay of their staff and cancel all future promotions causing great stress and financial hardship to all concerned especially Mr Chicksand who has now lost his business.
    Chicks Limited has endured over the last 7 years instead of quiet enjoyment of its premises a harassment no tenant should have had to endure it would appear the Brix wanted to get the maximum financial reward out of Chicks but at the same time tried to make it commerciality impossible because of its distaste of having a night club as its main tenant.
    The Brix would not allow any signs that Mass Night Club existed from the outside ,could not have seating outside Babalou and could not advertise its venue on the outside hoardings .With the additional service charges and already high rents there is no wonder Chicks Limited failed as did the previous businesses. It seems clear that these large spaces should only be used for the community and not commercial activities.
  8. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

  9. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I'll ignore that defamatory comment for now, but you have every right to reply both via the blog comment form (which you have already used) and this discussion thread here.

    Your comments will not be censored or altered in any way, so you are free to correct or challenge the claims made by the original author.

    My only interest in this matter is that of a Brixton resident and blogger keen to get to the truth of the matter. I have not taken sides and have no vested interest in this matter (In fact, I've been rather supportive of both Mass and Babalou over the years).

    Perhaps you could now state your interest in this matter? Are you personally involved with any of the companies?
  10. bluestreak

    bluestreak HomosexualityIsStalin’sAtomBombtoDestroyAmerica

    it's funny how people pretending not to be connected suddenly pop up innit :D
    ddraig, Jon Dee, nipsla and 1 other person like this.
  11. FrancescaB

    FrancescaB New Member

    Dear Editor, firstly no defamatory comment was directed to you - I was simply expressing my opinion of Mr Chicksand based upon what you had written. You must agree that he seems to have behaved irresponsibly to leave a charity carrying the can with such neat footwork (as you have described). I have no personal involvment with Chicks or the venues other than to visit them on occasions when out with friends. I regularly pass by St Matthews on my way to work so I was interested to find out what had happened last week after notices went up and found this site through a google search - I hope that's OK. Thank you for taking the time to file an update on this news, have you tried to speak to Mr Chicksand to get his version of the truth of this matter?
  12. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I have no means of getting in touch with Chicks, but seeing as you seem to have a direct line to them and are happy to publish their opinions, why don't you invite them to:

    (a) reply on my blog
    (b) post their comments here or
    (c) write their own article which I'll be happy to post on my blog

    No words will be censored or edited in any way *.

    As 'right to reply's go, I think that's about as fair and as comprehensive an offer as you - or they'll - ever get.

    (*pending any legal issues that may arise). Typos corrected too
  13. Ted Striker

    Ted Striker Foot's on the other hand

    Chicksand :D

    If it isn't made up it should be.
  14. twistedAM

    twistedAM Left Of The Dial

    It's fair enough in my eyes.
    The original "insider" source with such a massive axe to grind against Chicks was anonymous. Were they representing the landlord or the CofE perchance?
    Jon Dee likes this.
  15. colacubes

    colacubes Well-Known Member

    Re the bolded bit really? Traffic noise (which is greatly decreased at night anyway) isn't the same as for example bass from a club. Did they work with the council to mitigate the noise at all?
  16. FrancescaB

    FrancescaB New Member

    Sorry Ed, why do you think I am publishing his opinions? That is slightly offensive and denigrates my point of view on your piece. To make it clear, I am grateful to you for providing the blog entry but it is so obviously onesided - I was simply suggesting you might want to add some balance to the debate and I know others have commented on your source's grinding axe. When I visited Babalou I really enjoyed it and had enjoyable times there, shame they're gone. I really liked the idea of having a pool there, or something for young families. Perhaps the Trustees will revisit this now?
  17. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I apologise. I got the impression that you knew them. So you've never met or spoken to anyone from the company?
  18. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    Doesn't that mean that payments 1 and 2 are the usual premiums paid by the buyer to the outgoing leaseholder for the benefit of buying their leases and business fittings/goodwill? It is a tad misleading to suggest that Chicks somehow acted to bail the landlords out by paying the premiums to the vendor. It's a bit like claiming that I bailed out a bank when I bought my house because the vendor used the sale receipts to pay off their mortgage!

    Chicks have been seeking their own premium for the sale of the two leases since they started marketing it in October last year. The difference would seem to be that, for whatever reason, Chicks could not find anyone willing to pay the premium they were asking (which I understand is about the same as what they paid for it).

    The planning issue arose because Mass refused to respond to noise complaints from neighbours going back at least as far as 2005. The old manager, Mick K, used to use phrases like "do you know who the fuck you are dealing with?" and "you're disturbing my game of golf, fuck off" when people called to complain - not exactly conducive to neighbourly relations. An enquiry to Lambeth Planning on behalf of residents found that a condition was attached to the use of the Crypt requiring that no noise be audible outside the venue and residents asked for this to be enforced. When planning investigated they found that the venue was being used in breach of existing planning permission for an A3 restaurant and asked the owners to prove that they had established a right to do so which to my knowledge they did not attempt to do. (No enforcement action was ever started so this did not stop them trading).

    Planning and licensing are separate matters. Both venues operated under one licence. The licence issued in 2005 specifically required that all sound amplification equipment be channelled through limiters calibrated so that sound would automatically cut out if it reached levels which would be audible in neighbouring homes. The clubs never complied with this and refused to accept that there was any problem.

    They appeared to take a pretty indifferent view towards noise disturbance. For instance, when Bah Humbug was converted from a restaurant to a club in '06 the crypt was remodelled and the ground level ventilation grilles were exposed to the new dance floor- these had previously been in the WC area. Whoever designed the sound system thought it would be a good idea to hang the speakers immediately adjacent to the open vents and place the sub only a few feet away. The speakers are still in exactly the same spot although I noticed that the vents had more recently been blocked up - perhaps in response to a noise control visit last November.

    I don't know much about this except that Lambeth Parks is responsible for most of the land around the venue and they issued a legal notice on the club requesting them to cease enclosing parts of and erecting marquees on the peace gardens at night after the club repeatedly reneged on a voluntary agreement to stop doing so. The club was entirely reckless towards the disturbance that these outdoor enclosures caused to neighbours until 6am, mostly from doors accessing these areas being left wide open all night and allowing noise to escape, followed by the noise of marquees and enclosures being taken down between 6 and 8am on a Sunday morning.

    Controls on the use of the outside spaces weren't new. The pre-2005 licence for the Crypt also contained controls because the owners starting setting up sound systems outside Wed thru' Saturday evenings.

    I think it is important to add that I don't know a single resident who wanted to see the clubs gone. They just wanted them to improve their sound proofing, or turn the noise down, stop having outdoor all-nighters and stop hiding behind the excuse that the road can be busy at times so they should be allowed to make as much noise as they like.
    snowy_again likes this.
  19. minnie minor

    minnie minor New Member

  20. minnie minor

    minnie minor New Member

    In his/her passionate defence of Chicks, "Jon Dee" gave some facts and figures which s/he said were correct, but are in fact wrong and misleading. The people who first designed and created Mass owed The Brix £26,000 in back rent when they sold their business to Chicks in 2002. It was the brewery that instigated the action against them for six figure debts on their contract to supply alcohol. Chicks paid £250,000 to the owners of Mass for the business. Most of this was passed straight on to the brewery, who repaid The Brix the £26,000 that was owed in rent, services and utilities. So the sum was £26,000 not £250,000 and it was not some kind of charitable donation by Chicks.

    As regards the transfer of the crypt restaurant to Chicks, this happened three years later. Bah Humbug was very well-regarded and was the creation of two inspired restaurateurs who ran the business successfully from St Matthews for six or seven years before getting into trouble. When the owners sold out to Chicks, they owed The Brix £67,000 in back rent and service charges. Again Chicks bought the business from the previous owners. The £67,000 owed was paid back personally by the previous owner out of his own pocket. The money paid by Chicks to his company was handed over to the administrator for the settlement of the bills of other creditors. Again, not £200,000, and not a bail out by Chicks.

    It is important for readers to note that all the revenues brought in by The Brix are ploughed back into the maintenance of the historic fabric of the building and the running costs of keeping it going. Trustees are not paid, and there are the equivalent of only three or four full time members of staff to manage the whole building. Tenants pay the rents laid down in their leases and pay an agreed percentage of electricity, gas, water and insurance costs, also laid down in their leases. The formula for the calculation of service charges is also formally set out in the lease of the Babalou space. This is a document which was voluntarily signed after professional legal advice by Chicks. Sorry! I know all this is boring! However, the main point is that if Chicks have paid £2m over ten years - which I think is also a significant exaggeration - then that is because £2m of resources have been consumed during that time in terms of rent for use of the space, share of utility bills, share of costs of repairing the roof etc. So please don't think that Chicks has been any kind of benefactor in this whole saga, and don't believe it when "Jon Dee" alleges that Chicks has "until very recently kept up with its financial obligations". It has not.
    snowy_again likes this.
  21. Jon Dee

    Jon Dee New Member

    Indeed and the running costs meant that the Brix acting as a charity, in order to drive away a homeless person from their door at night installed a sprinkler system which comes on every hour of the night the prevent the homeless sleeping on the premises.
    Now that is really charitable, about time the present trustees especially the chairman retired;)
  22. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    It only seems fair and reasonable to ask if you have any involvement with any of the parties here?
  23. twistedAM

    twistedAM Left Of The Dial

    Why are you asking Jon Dee that and not Minnie Minor who seems to have inside info from the other perspective?

    Can't really blame anyone for hiding behind masks on here when the original blog piece was written by someone anonymously.
  24. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I'll be sure to ask Minnie Minor when she posts next, but the rather petty bit about sprinklers suggested some insider knowledge.
    And you can't blame someone who's interested in getting to the truth of the matter asking such questions either.
  25. FrancescaB

    FrancescaB New Member

    I don't live close close enough to have been affected by the noise, but it is awful to have to put up with that (particualrly if you have young children) and it sounds like the manager and owner are as bad as each other - good riddance to them! What is also clear is that there is a lot of affection for the bars and clubs and it is sad that they are gone, particularly as issues with the local authority suggest that it will be very difficult to get something similar now. Presumeably the 'existing use' legislation could only have been pursued by the existing tenant and their eviction has now closed that avenue?

    Jon Dee and Minnie Minor clearly have insider knowledge (perhaps Minnie is the infamous source!) and can raise issues with the whys and wherefores that have created this situation, but moaning about the past is not going to solve the ongoing problems that Brix now faces. The Trustees have a serious problem and some of the replies to Editor's blog are quite illuminating. What is clear is that by foreclosing on the lease without a payment plan in place and virtually on the eve of winning a crucial court case, Brix and its Trustees are unlikely to get much/any of the six-figure sums that are owed - is Mr Chicksand paying anything from his own pocket towards the debt as the previous insolvent tenants did, perhaps Minne/Jon Dee can clarify?!

    As a side issue there must be thousands worth of kit & stock left inside the venues that the Trustees surely can recover in part payment of the debt and sell off? Or maybe Brix can reopen the venues themselves using this kit and honour the nights and events that were organised in the coming months. Afterall there is an existing business and with more community minded proprietors such as the Trustees it has to be for the benefit of the area.

    If Brix now has to be wound up as a result of the actions by the tenant and Trustees what then happens to the lease? Does it go back to the church and everything starts all over again?

    BTW - your apology is accepted Editor, thanks once again for gleaning this information and apologies to you if my initial comments concerning the one-sidedness riled you a little. It appears we are now finally getting both sides of the story!
  26. Alo Licentia!

    Alo Licentia! Member

  27. cyd

    cyd Member

    Rushy, Bah Humbug NEVER sold Lamb. We only sold fish because the board of Directors that gave us the lease stated that we must have at least one non veg, item on our menu as a term in the agreement( or else the 'local community' would not use the venue! (??) ). We slipped around this by putting on Ackee and saltfish. Later the fish part of the menu expanded. Having the fish on the menu meant that ardent vegetarians could bring carniverous friends and family and 'get away' with them not noticing that there was no meat.

    Mock duck was indeed our number one seller. We sold 300 portions a week. My recipe. :)
    gaijingirl likes this.
  28. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    Hey Cyd. As the esteemed inventor of Mock Duck I'm definitely not going to argue with you as I'm sure you know better. I have always had it in my mind that it was a weird anomaly - was there a veggie tagine? Were you business partners with Rod?

    ETA my gf who was veggie at the time and who was responsible for a significant proportion of your Mock Duck consumption also remembers a lamb tagine :confused:.
  29. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I had that mock duck. it was delicious.
  30. Alo Licentia!

    Alo Licentia! Member

    Someone calling themselves Bah Humbug has posted on the blog that there are dead bodies in the crypt.


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