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Chef Tom van Zeller blames Brexit for his restaurant's closure

01 July 2016 by
Chef Tom van Zeller blames Brexit for his restaurant's closure

Harrogate's Van Zeller restaurant has closed with chef patron Tom van Zeller blaming an immediate fall-off in customers following Brexit.

The restaurant has been a fixture on the Yorkshire dining scene since it opened in February 2009, in the teeth of the last recession.

Nonetheless, it was a success and picked up awards including the Good Food Guide Readers' Restaurant of the Year in 2012, and the title of Best Restaurant in Yorkshire & the North East at the 2012 Hi-Life Dining Awards.

However, van Zeller announced this morning (1 July) that the 36-cover site would be closing for the last time.

The chef/restaurateur put the blame for his business's closure firmly on the uncertainty created by the UK's decision last week to leave the European Union, as well as a raft of new restaurant openings in the Harrogate area from a number of chains.

"The problem is that I have been through one recession - I opened in 2009 - and I had always hoped that the economy would recover. And then the last week has been a real kick in the nuts with Brexit," van Zeller told The Caterer.

"Certainly, Brexit has made a difference. If people are contemplating whether or not they can afford the Euros to go on holiday, the last thing they want to do is come here and spend £50 on their dinner each.

"Without Brexit I would have had a bit more faith that the economy would have continued to improve. It is the uncertainty and I can't operate on those lines. I don't want to go through it all again. I have a son of nine weeks of age and I turn 40 this year and I am just taking stock of where we are with it all."

He now plans to sell the business and is looking at taking on a new role within the industry.

"I am very much open to offers," he said. "I don't have a burning desire to go and work in someone else's kitchen as a head chef because it is quite a difficult move for someone who has had his own restaurant but what I do want to do is to try and help other businesses or help another company in some kind of support role, regional role, or development role."

Van Zeller opened his restaurant with £86,000 from a range of investors, one of whom was Pied à Terre owner David Moore. Van Zeller's decision to go it alone in October 2008 came at around the time of the collapse of Lehmann Brothers and the credit crunch.

But even in a challenging economic environment, and a shortfall of around £65,000 in what was really needed to open the restaurant, the chef made it work.

"A lot of people said: ‘Don't be so crazy, don't leave your job.' But the time was right in my career," said Van Zeller in an interview with The Caterer in 2012.

"We just had to get on with it. We got credit, we used revenue immediately on interior design. We've had cash-flow problems as a result but we've proved that it is possible just to get on with it."

The restaurant started to turn a profit in December 2011.

Van Zeller in Harrogate named Good Food Guide's Best Restaurant >>

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