A FINE dining restaurant which went bust after falling into debt will reopen this week – led by the same businessman.
Number Nine, on North Hill, opened in October last year with the aim of becoming Colchester’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.
Now, the company behind it has gone into administration after falling into six-figure debt.
Tony Cole, director of Number Nine Restaurants, was left owing food suppliers, Colchester Council and the tax man after trade began plummeting in May.
The mounting debts have left the restaurant closed for the past fortnight and the company website was disabled.
But despite owing hundreds of thousands of pounds the business is set to reopen under a new, debt-free company, headed by Mr Cole. The move has been slammed by out-of-pocket suppliers and town MP Sir Bob Russell , who has called for a review into business law.
Mr Cole said all ten restaurant staff had been paid and he is confident the restaurant has a future.
Speaking exclusively to the Gazette, he said: “We have had great critical acclaim. The pedigree of the place is unquestionable.
“But when you go backwards in business so suddenly, you can’t claw it back just like that.
“We are not sure what happened. It suddenly became a swamp.
“I expect there will be some annoyed suppliers. We had to re-organise.”
In June, its lowest trading month, the restaurant took just £12,000.
Number Nine opened after a £360,000 investment in the 16th-century building, which used to house Monty’s Indian restaurant.
It will reopen under new operating company, Rekcin, of which Mr Cole is a director. It is a consortium business, backed by a Colchester-based accountancy firm.
The restaurant will reopen on Thursday, with bookings already taken until Christmas.
Mr Cole has blamed difficult trading conditions and perceptions the restaurant was “too posh” for its downfall.
He said it will take a friendlier direction with e-mails to regular customers and a menu board outside.
He added: “If I wasn’t confident in its future I wouldn’t be in it.
“The biggest shareholder in Number Nine has always been Tony Cole.”
Frank Wright Butchers, which supplied Number Nine’s meat until February, has lost more than £1,000 in unpaid fees.
A spokesman said: “I am upset we haven’t heard from his administrators, but then he probably has not listed us as creditors.
“We are likely to lose £1,000. We can’t afford to throw this money away.”