St Albans city centre foraging pub closes down
PUBLISHED: 12:25 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:18 26 July 2019
Former staff of a St Albans city centre pub report that it has gone into insolvency and closed.
The Verulam Arms on Lower Dagnall Street reportedly shut down at 12 midnight last night, leaving more than ten employees redundant and unpaid for the last month's work.
General manager Andie Hann said: "I am at a loss - I go from wanting to punch things to wanting to burst into tears.
"This is everybody here's livelihood, the team we had built here was great."
Andie stressed that although she knew the business had problems, she did not foresee they were bad enough to justify insolvency.
She described the team as "brilliant": "No-one has been paid - we have to apply to the Government to get our wages. Everybody has bills to pay.
"The business was struggling, as are all pubs which are constantly under more and more pressure and the industry is on a downturn."
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She said many members of the team have been employed by the pub for less than a year and so will not qualify for Statutory Redundancy Pay.
Co-owners of The Verulam Arms, Richard Osmond and George Fredenham, organise Foraging Walk and Feast events around St Albans alongside the pub business.
Andie said the coming months are fully booked with paid-up walk attendees - but she is not sure if they will be affected by the pub closure.
Patron Frank Casey said: "It was heartbreaking - the staff were in tears because they had no knowledge of what was going to happen.
"It's another pub, in a city that is renowned for its pubs, that is gone. The only people to blame are the people who haven't used it."
The Foragers at The Verulam Arms has nearly 500 subscribers on YouTube, but the channel has not posted a video since January 2019.
Head forager Richard Osmond said it is a "terrible situation": "When I announced the liquidation, I made it clear that staff should speak with the administrators who would, in many cases, be able to help them claim their full wage, outstanding holiday pay and 14 days redundancy pay.
"Additionally, Andie and the management team, who are partly responsible for profitability, were well aware that we were facing closure. Over the last few weeks I have been clear about it, saying things like 'we have lost at least two thousand pounds every week for the last month', 'this week's turnover is the lowest I have ever seen', 'we need to do something radical to avoid going out of business', and this week, 'I think this is the end'."
He stressed that it was a last resort, adding: "It is a horrible situation to be made redundant, and I hate that we have done this to our staff and to the business."