Charity's collapse forces Hoxton Apprentice to seek buyer

28 December 2012 by
Charity's collapse forces Hoxton Apprentice to seek buyer

Hoxton Apprentice, the innovative apprentice programme which combined high-quality dining with training for disadvantaged people from local communities, has closed its doors and is up for sale.

According to the Guardian, Training for Life, the charity that ran the restaurant, has fallen into administration. Administrators are hoping to complete a sale on the property early in the New Year.

Hoxton Apprentice was opened in 2004 by Prue Leith and social entrepreneur Gordon D'Silva, as a separate company linked to the Training for Life charity. It was the culmination of several years' work, predating Jamie Oliver's Fifteen scheme, and was the first in a series of Restaurants for Life. Neither Leith nor D'Silva are involved in the project now.

Training for Life was launched in 1995 to help long-term jobless through training and apprenticeships. It is believed to have helped more than 13,000 people into full-time education or employment, and created more than 150 new jobs in its own right.

Insolvency experts Mazars were appointed as administrators of Training For Life in November, and Marriotts are handling the sale of Hoxton Apprentice. The original restaurant in Hoxton Square and its sister restaurant, the Dartmouth Apprentice in Devon, continued to honour bookings, but the Barking Apprentice Cafe in east London has closed.

Paul Barton, who headed up the Barking Apprentice Cafe, commented on a social networking site last month: "It is with huge sadness that I have to write this. Training for Life, Barking Apprentice's parent company, has gone into receivership and, therefore, can no longer maintain Barking Apprentice Cafe. This is mainly due to funding issues and has no bearing or reflection on any of the staff at Barking Apprentice Cafe.

The joint administrator of Hoxton Apprentice, Lloyd Hinton of Marriotts, told the Guardian: "There is very little I can say atthis time other than we hope to complete a sale of the business shortly."

D'Silva told the Guardian: " I was deeply upset to hear that Training for Life has gone into administration. In their day, they managed to transform the lives of thousands of disadvantaged people. They pioneered new business models that combined social purpose with profitability and they created a blueprint that many other organisations followed. Its intangible assets and real impact are therefore immeasurable."

He said the changing funding climate had played a part in its demise. "In four short years the world has changed irrevocably. People want more for less on all levels … and social enterprises are no different. They are exposed to the same market forces as everyone else."

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By Amanda Afiya
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