Covid pandemic casualty: Last orders at Bishop's Stortford's Twisted Cellar just three years after opening
A Bishop's Stortford bar and wine, gin and craft beer merchant has called time at its South Street premises after three years, citing the "devastating effect" of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Twisted Cellar, which brought a flavour of rustic France to the town centre, has struggled to survive since shortly after it opened in July 2018 because of a business rates row with East Herts Council, but coronavirus was the final straw.
Then, owners Joe and Sharon Grice said they were close to breaking point, but they and their team persevered until Wednesday (August 4).
A message posted on the business's social media accounts said: "With a heavy heart, we can confirm that we will be shutting the doors of Twisted Cellar for good. We wanted you all to know that we have not gone out without a fight.
"We tried everything we absolutely could but the devastating effect of the pandemic, in the end, was too much. Despite hope that an ease in restrictions over the last few months would generate a much-needed upturn in trading income, it has become apparent that low customer numbers, uncertainty around trading, mounting creditors and rent arrears have left us with no alternative.
"We did our very best to support our staff, their livelihoods and respect the safety restrictions put in place by Government. However, like so many other hospitality businesses, we have sadly reached the end of the road.
"We want to take this moment to thank all of our amazing customers for their continued love and support."
Twisted Cellar joins high street chains Bill's and Zizzi in Bishop's Stortford as hospitality casualties of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Bishop's Stortford Town Council's finance and policy committee was presented with the council's latest accounts, which noted that the business owed £872 for pitches booked at Sworder's Field for its mobile bar.
A note on the records said: "Twisted Cellar are being continually chased by the events and tourism manager. The invoice is an advance payment for various dates throughout summer (but mainly August)."
In July 2019, the Grices faced legal action from East Herts Council to recover business rates.
The couple had been led to believe, as new arrivals to the high street, they were eligible for a rebate of up to £10,000. In expectation of the grant, they invested in the mobile bar and were devastated to learn their premises' rateable value was just over the maximum allowed. They then faced monthly repayments of £1,800 to cover their debts and stop the council from seizing their stock.
Before the pandemic destroyed their dreams, the Grices planned to open a new store in the Herts and Essex area every year for five years.