Belfast Telegraph

Belfast restaurant owners racked up £1m debts

Closed restaurant chain's creditors include taxpayer-funded growth loan of £400k

By Christopher Woodhouse

THE former hit barbecue restaurant Bubbacue has left debts of more than £1 million following its surprise closure.

Documents published online show dozens of creditors are owed thousands, including a £400,000 taxpayer-funded loan. But liquidators estimate the Belfast chain, owned by John and Karen Blisard, has just under £18,000 to pay off what they owe.

However, the final figure may be more, with at least one creditor not on the list still out of pocket by at least £54,000.

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Bubbacue has closed its restaurants on Callender Street and Botanic Avenue

One person owed thousands of pounds told Sunday Life they were not even aware the business was closing until it was announced on social media.

It's understood the Blisards have returned to John's native United States, citing family reasons.

Despite riding to success on the pulled pork craze, it announced last month it was closing with immediate effect after going into liquidation. It had one site on Callender Street and another on Botanic Avenue.

The Blisards, who also founded and then sold the burrito chain, Boojum, said they were pulling the plug with a Facebook post.

In March 2017, the firm secured £400,000 from the NI Growth Loan Fund, which is backed in part by taxpayer-funded Invest NI.

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Restaurant chain Bubbacue has ceased trading at its two Belfast outlets

Liquidators Keenan Corporate Finance published details of the amount owed to 27 suppliers and backers on Companies House earlier this month, totalling £1,201,758.

It includes £40,528 owed to Close Brothers Asset Finance and £30,352 to wholesale food supplier, Henderson.

The papers state more than £400,000 is still outstanding to the NI Growth Loan Fund, as well as £4,787 in redundancy payments to staff. They also reveal the directors ploughed £454,916 of their own funds into the company, which they haven't been able to make back.

Other companies still owed money include cooking oil suppliers, Frylite, NI Water, Electricity Ireland and drinks supplier, Nelson Sauvin.

The liquidators estimate the firm has just £17,610 available to meet the debts.

Sunday Life tried to contact John Blisard, but received no response.

A spokesperson for WhiteRock Capital Partners, which administered the fund, said they had conducted their normal lending procedures, including due diligence checks on the business.

They added they are seeking to recover the money.

cwoodhouse@sundaylife.co.uk

@MrCWoodhouse

Belfast Telegraph

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