ONE of the region’s top restaurants has been forced to close its doors as it battles against “severe financial difficulties”.
The Fisherman’s Lodge, in Newcastle’s Jesmond Dene, has been shut for more than two weeks, leaving a string of customers, including some wedding parties, worried about the security of their bookings.
John Metcalfe, of Blyth, Northumberland, is due to wed his partner of 15 years Lisa Haggerty, 45, at the top-end dining house in June.
He is now worried about whether the event will go ahead.
Mr Metcalfe, 46, said: “The staff had asked us to get in touch with them at the end of February to confirm the menu.
“But when I called, the line was dead. I kept trying, and got nothing, and no reply to my emails.
“I went down to the restaurant but it was all in darkness, the gates were locked and there was a sign saying closed for maintenance.”
He added: “I have already paid £350 for my wedding reception. The whole day has been planned around that venue, and I have already sent out the invitations.
“I am very concerned to find out what is going on.”
Yesterday, Fisherman’s Lodge remained shut up, while a sign on the door read: “Closed for maintenance for two weeks. Sorry for any inconvenience.”
Currently, work is being done to resurface the restaurant’s access road which runs through Jesmond Dene.
But it has emerged that the company behind the restaurant, DGM Investments Ltd, has been in contact with insolvency practitioners. Libby Aird-Brown, of London-based insolvency firm TMP, told The Journal last night: “Fisherman’s Lodge faces severe financial difficulties but it is not in administration or liquidation at this stage.”
DGM Investments director Jamie Howell, confirmed the restaurant is currently closed, but he said he intended to re-open “next week”.
He would not comment on the details of the money problems, although he admitted times had been hard, with up to 50% of bookings cancelled due to snow over the normally busy winter period.
“Fisherman’s Lodge is closed temporarily,” he said.
“Maintenance and resurfacing work is being carried out on the access road in the park.
“There are a number of other issues, which I do not wish to go into at this stage but I hope for those to be clarified later this week.
“It has not been an easy time for fine dining restaurants but we believe we have got a positive way forward.
“The intention is to reopen as early as next week and I have a number of plans for the restaurant.”
Mr Howell and chef Alan O’Kane took over Fisherman’s Lodge in August 2009, from previous owner Tom Maxfield.
They faced controversy in May last year, when they were granted a licence to serve alcohol without food.
Jesmond residents claimed the changes would disturb the peace of the dene.
And in December Mr O’Kane, formerly chef at Tynemouth’s Brasserie 1883, left the partnership after a disagreement with Mr Howell.
He told the Journal at the time that the business “was not going in the direction I wanted it to”.