Dumbfounded diners may have thought the owner of Falkirk’s Canada Wood Kitchen and Bar was playing an April Fool’s Day prank when he announced the closure of the popular restaurant on Monday.
However, the statement Malcolm Binnie posted on the Lochgreen Road venue’s Facebook page was anything but a joke.
The news may not be as bad as it first appears for customers, though, as new operators have now been drafted in by landlord Callendar Estate, which instructed BKK Holdings Ltd — a company that has sub-let the premises to Canada Wood for the past four years — to rescind the lease due to Mr Binnie owing “significant” rent arrears dating back to last August.
What’s more, those who have grown fond of the fare served up at the countryside eatery shouldn’t have too long to wait until they can pop in for a meal, as new co-owners Jamie Stewart and Frank Bradley aim to have the restaurant back up and running as early as next week, with all 25 kitchen and front of house employees retained to boot.
The duo have been business partners for five years and currently run the Delivino delicatessen and wine cafes in Crieff and Auchterarder.
As he looked ahead to his new role, Mr Stewart, who has managed Delivino for 13 years, said: “Things will be back up and running and it’s going to be an absolute credit to the people of Falkirk and the staff who work here.
“We are looking to open next week but the staff have been working from Tuesday, they were out of work for about 16 hours.
“It’s going to be even better. It’s a challenge that excites us — we are buzzing for it.”
Explaining the background to the decision to change operator, a spokesman for Callander Estate said: “Canada Wood Kitchen and Bar has had a very successful first four years of operation, and we are grateful to Malcolm Binnie and his talented team for helping to establish the venue’s popularity with locals and visitors to the area.
“It is regrettable that Mr Binnie was not able to meet his obligations under the terms of the lease agreement. After six months of non-payment of rent we have reluctantly had to terminate the arrangement.
“The estate made numerous offers and attempts to discuss terms for payment of the outstanding rent and certain other payments. As Mr Binnie declined to engage with us and/or make any meaningful payments, we were forced to seek a new partner to secure the future of Canada Wood.
“Callendar Estate is delighted that Jamie Stewart and Frank Bradley will be taking over the management of Canada Wood.
“We greatly look forward to working with the new management on our exciting plans for the further development of the cafe-restaurant. Canada Wood is a big part of our vision for Callendar Estate and its place in the visitor economy of Falkirk and beyond.”
Contrastingly, Mr Binnie told The Falkirk Herald a new payment plan had been agreed with Callendar Estate at the turn of the year.
The former owner also claims he was only informed last week that he would have to be out of the premises by Monday.
He said: “The first we knew about any new operator was only Monday morning.
“I had been trying to contact Callendar Estate from 8am to try to resolve the issue.
“A representative from Callendar Estate came into the restaurant at 9am. At about 10am he was asking what time we would be vacating.
“We put a proposal down from March to June. Everything was confirmed going forward.
“I had a meeting on January 15 clarifying the payment situation up until June and everything was good.
“There was a further email on February 7 confirming payments. I was given five days’ notice last Wednesday. I was told we had to be out.”
Mr Binnie has thanked customers for the support they have shown online following his announcement.
He added: “We’ve had thousands of comments on Facebook, 99 per cent are positive and we will respond in due course. We’re absolutely overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from customers.”
A move by Callendar Estate to set up a new company with Companies House on January 31, called Canada Wood Kitchen and Bar Ltd, led to some social media users questioning its motives.
However, Guy Wedderburn, Callendar Estate manager, sought to clarify the situation and said: “There are all sorts of suggestions we are trying to steal the business — we’re not. Callender Estate has invested very heavily in that building.
“We need to protect that name so we chose to incorporate a company to have Canada Wood in our control. The signage all points to Canada Wood so it was to ensure that the name was protected.”
One issue facing the new co-owners is the fact Canada Wood currently doesn’t have a licence. However, both Jamie and Frank are optimistic such stumbling blocks will be overcome and that the restaurant will once again be doing a roaring trade after re-opening.
Mr Stewart added: “We hope to be able to turn it around in time. We’re going through the menu to make it more concise and more focused and to use the best bits of Canada Wood and, hopefully, use our experience to introduce new dishes.”
The new co-owners confirmed they also intend to resolve the situation regarding paid-for vouchers in due course, once the number of unclaimed tokens has been verified by the till company.