We get the lowdown on the social media uproar from Vin-yard and Bruntwood

With just weeks to go before bars and restaurants can resume trading, a row has broken out between Bruntwood, owner of popular retail and leisure destination Hatch, and some of its tenants.

Bars at the complex of independent retailers claim they have been evicted so that Bruntwood can take over their operation to "recoup money" lost during the pandemic.

They’ve said they lost too much money over lockdown and they need to recoup their money and this is how they’ve decided to do it

In an emotive Instagram post, Vin-yard owner Anna Tutton wrote:

"Straight to the point, I’m afraid that glass of wine we’d been looking forward to cheers-ing with you is going to have a bit of a delay!

"It’s still a real shock, but we must finally share the news that we have recently been evicted from our premises at @hatchmcr, along with some of our boozy small business friends, after they (@bruntwoodworks / @bruntwood) decided to take on running ‘the bars’ for their own profit. Having hung with them in solidarity over the past year of (mostly) lockdown, looking forward to a truly memorable Spring/Summer of trading with our independent counterparts & loyal customers who we’ve sorely missed (more than the wine!), we are now abruptly left with little time & little agency as we plan towards our unexpected future."

When Hatch opened, Bruntwood told Confidentials: "The idea behind Hatch is to attract new and innovative ideas, whether you’re a big brand or smaller independent trader. We want to create a space for makers and creators with interesting products, but also have those bigger brands in to drive footfall." 

Notice of eviction 

Confidentials has seen the notice of eviction letter, which confirms that Vin-yard was given seven days notice to clear the premises. The letter was dated 16 February.

The Government placed a ban on the eviction of businesses from their premises until 31 March. The Government’s website says “This final extension to protections from the threat of eviction will give landlords and tenants three months to come to an agreement on unpaid rent. The government is clear that where businesses can pay any or all of their rent, they should do so."

When pressed on the matter, Bruntwood responded: "In line with Hatch's pop-up environment, the arrangements with traders at Hatch are licences, not leases. We operate with licences that roll over and can be terminated by either party with a minimum of seven days notice. This is part of the flexible arrangement that we offer at Hatch to allow low cost of entry, on an all-inclusive basis, to allow the customer to pop up and vacate quickly if they wish  - a reflection of the evolving environment at Hatch. It is not an eviction, but we have not renewed the licence. As stated, we have provided as much notice as possible, notifying traders back in January as soon as the decision was made, and providing support for all those affected."

180430 Hatch Img 8207
Hatch attracts consumers looking for independent retailers

Why is Vin-yard owner Anna Tutton so upset?

Confidentials spoke to Anna Tutton as she was on her way to view potential new premises.

“I'm shocked. I never saw it coming, as you wouldn't in an independent place. I’m very disappointed with how they’ve treated us to be honest. They could have done it better. They could have found us somewhere else to move into in the short term or given us till the end of the summer. To be fair they didn’t charge us rent over lockdown but now they’ve taken our livelihood," she told us.

"They’ve said they lost too much money over lockdown and they need to recoup their money and this is how they’ve decided to do it, by getting rid of four or five [of the traders] and running it themselves.

"People should at least know what they are going to, it's not really what it started out to be is it? 

"We've had to move out in a pandemic, I'm not even sure if that's safe but we've had to do it. We just got given the termination notice and we got told over a zoom meeting, one by one. They said, 'You're going to get a horrible letter through the post so we wanted to tell you what's going on ourselves,' but it doesn't make any difference really. When you've been hanging on and hanging on just to reopen, it's really hard.

"Why couldn't they just say, 'We've got to do this but we'll give you til September. That way, you've got time to make some money, time to look for somewhere else.'? 

"We've all given it our all. We've all tried our best to make it work when it has been a struggle sometimes, especially in winter. I don't know how skint they really are when they've just bought a science park for £42 million [Bruntwood acquired Melbourn Science Park for £46.2million earlier this month] which makes you question it all."

180703 Hatch Outside Oxford Road
Hatch will be utilising its outdoor space in April

Bruntwood responds

Confidentials contacted Bruntwood for a statement. Andrea George, Director of town centres and consumer brands at Bruntwood Works, said:

"Hatch is a place that is constantly evolving. We set it up to house independent businesses and startups, and create an exciting new destination for Manchester. We’re proud to have helped dozens of independent businesses to develop and grow since we started out and this is something that we want to continue to do. 

"During the periods of lockdown we have ensured that no traders pay rent but of course the costs of maintaining the site have continued. Now, against this backdrop of exceptionally challenging conditions dominated by COVID-19, and in order to secure the future of Hatch, we need to make changes to the configuration of the site and therefore have decided to follow the same model under which many similar venues operate, and keep some of the bars 'in house'. Without this change to the model, Hatch would not be able to reopen. 

"This decision to part ways with some of the businesses has been very difficult but has had to happen in order to protect the future of Hatch, and the whole community of traders. We started the conversations with those that have been impacted by the decision in January, and we have been working with them since to provide support, including trying to find other sites within the wider portfolio. All of the businesses that are impacted are fantastic operators in their own right, and we know they will do great things wherever they go next, whether that be in our portfolio or elsewhere. 

"We continue to support all of our brilliant traders on site, including independent bar and microbrewery, Ol; independent coffee shop Takk; 12 independent food traders; four independent retailers and a range of independently owned service businesses too – from tattooists to barbers. 

"We are looking forward to reopening our doors on 12th April and announcing the arrival of six new independent businesses.”

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