Sublease deal blamed as French cafes close doors

19:36, Jan 29 2013
Simply Paris
CLOSED: Simply Paris.

French cafe business Simply Paris has closed both its Wellington cafes after a sublease agreement soured.

The bakery and restaurants owned by Pascal Chivot, a former chef for the French ambassador, were known for authentic Parisian pastries.

Its two cafes - in Dixon St in Wellington's CBD and Riddiford St, Newtown - were closed in mid-December, with signs in windows saying they were shut "until further notice".

The business has now gone in to voluntary administration.

Chivot opened the cafe at 181 Cuba St five years ago, later shifting to Dixon St and subletting half of the Cuba St site to The Caribbean Restaurant Bar and Grill. He kept the rest of the property for Simply Paris's baking.

Caribbean owners Naomi and Zachary Widener closed the Caribbean Restaurant for good on January 20.


"We no longer had a sublease, as Simply Paris was defaulting on their lease so they pulled out, which meant we had to leave, ultimately," Mr Widener said.

They could have stayed on by taking over the entire property - doubling the rent bill - but they had no need for the commercial bakery facilities in Simply Paris's half of the property, he said.

"No one party is blaming anyone else. We were not kicked out by any stretch of the imagination."

The Wideners also own Brooklyn's Cafe Caribe and roast award-winning coffee Caribe Gold. Cafe Caribe continues to trade and is unaffected.

Chivot, who was awarded the French National Order of Agricultural Merit in 2010 for cuisine services, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. His business partner, John Miller, said although the cafe was not struggling, closure was the only realistic option given the collapse of the Caribbean.

"If you sublease a place and the rent is being paid, that's good. If the rent is not being paid and arrears build up, you then find, even if it . . . was someone else's business, the bad luck falls on you as well. The catalyst [for Simply Paris closing] really was the Caribbean Cafe, it's sort of a domino effect."

However, Mr Widener said Caribbean never missed a rent payment. He advised other cafe owners not to enter sublease arrangements.

"The lease became untenable as our sub-landlord was Simply Paris and they have gone out of business. I wouldn't recommend [subleasing] to anybody, especially off another hospitality business. . . Subleasing is dangerous because if someone needs to take a different course of action or is insolvent, the whole thing can fall down."

Restaurant Association national president Mike Egan said anyone going in to a subleasing situation, which was uncommon in the hospitality industry, would need to be aware of the risks.

According to Companies Office records, Simply Paris had debts to coffee company Cerebos Greggs, Dunedin's eftpos terminal rental company Technology Holdings, Auckland wine supplier Eurovintage and food service equipment supplier Southern Hospitality.

Contact Jazial Crossley
Wellington business reporter
Twitter: @msbananapeel

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