A group of buffet-style restaurants serving cuisine from around the world owes more than £500,000 in business rates across the UK.
The debt came to light after Jimmy's Restaurants closed its Brighton branch on 31 July, without notifying staff or customers. The 500-cover restaurant was forced to close by Brighton & Hove City Council
as a result of owing over £200,000 in business rates.
It was part of a complex corporate entity with overlapping interests held by companies connected through shared directors, shareholders or corporate addresses.
A spokesman for Brighton & Hove City Council said: "After opening in November 2014, Jimmy's failed to make payments until fractionally before our enforcement officers visited their premises in early August to remove goods.
"We had visited two weeks previously to list goods for removal; afterwards Jimmy's paid us £9,000. The payment was far short of the instalment we required, and nowhere near enough for us to cancel our enforcement action. We have been pursuing this since the restaurant opened."
The history of Jimmy's Restaurants, known as Jimmy's World Kitchen, Jimmy Spices and Jimmy's World in different locations, reveals a tangled web involving the operating company repeatedly going into voluntary liquidation and re-emerging under a new company name, but frequently with the same directors, including Kuldip Singh, Zulfiqar Ali and Parminder Uppal.
While one of the existing operating companies is called Grand Regency (renamed from Jimmy's Restaurants on 11 July), the restaurants have previously been run by Jimmys Bar, Daylight Corporation, Demaxx Holdings and East and West Restaurants 3, none of which is now operational. A spokesperson for accountancy firm Smith & Williamson confirmed that it is handling the liquidation of Jimmys Bar.
As well as Brighton & Hove, other local authorities owed money by Jimmy's Restaurants include Watford Borough Council, after a Jimmy's site closed with debts of £101,000 in unpaid business rates. An earlier figure of £27,000 owed by the business was written off when the then operating company went into liquidation.
While Jimmy's in Peterborough is still trading, it owes nearly £100,000 in business rates. A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: "The amount owed in unpaid business rates with regard to the property occupied by Jimmy's Restaurants in Peterborough is approximately £95,000. This covers the period between March 2014 and July 2016. The debt is split between Daylight Corporation and Grand Regency. Enforcement action including the use of enforcement agents has been employed to try and recover the debt."
Councils, however, are experiencing difficulties in recovering the debt as Jimmy's operates without any tangible assets, with its furniture and other items
Bath and North East Somerset Council confirmed that it was owed £114,000, while Brent Council acknowledged that Jimmy's at Wembley, which is also still open, owes money, but declined to reveal how much.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council said it had recently written off a debt accrued by a previous owner of Jimmy's. "The restaurant used to be called Jimmy Spices before changing to Jimmy's World. If that company is no longer trading then that's why that debt has been written off," a spokesperson said.
Merton Council, which covers the Wimbledon site, and the Royal Borough of Greenwich, where Jimmy's is located at the O2, both said they were liaising with the company over rates but could not comment further.
Luton Borough, Spelthorne Borough and Swansea City councils did not reply to The Caterer's enquiry regarding overdue business rates. Brighton's local newspaper The Argus reported that the site in Staines owes Spelthorne Borough Council £40,000.
No-one was available at Jimmy's Restaurants to comment at the time of going to press.
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