Beer Barrel couldn't survive 'historical debt'

SAD DEMISE: The Beer Barrel owner Nathan Hiscox says the banks "weren't prepared to be patient with us".
SAD DEMISE: The Beer Barrel owner Nathan Hiscox says the banks "weren't prepared to be patient with us".

Debts of more than $1 million have forced the owners of popular Palmerston North nightclub The Beer Barrel into liquidation.

The future of the Fitzherbert Ave bar built "from dirt" by Nathan ‘Rat' Hiscox and ex-wife Shelley Loader in 2010 appears secure, with liquidator Lyn Carey examining multiple offers to buy the business.

But 67 unsecured creditors of the bar and its parent companies CRS Hospitality and CRS Investments are unlikely to be paid back, Carey's first liquidator's reports into the two companies says.

Secured creditor Dominion Breweries is owed $182,562, preferential creditor Inland Revenue is owed $219,424 across the two businesses, and staff are owed holiday pay of $9318.

Hiscox said yesterday The Beer Barrel's issues were largely caused by troubles with then-landlord, the Paul Barris-managed Valor Ideal.

The issues caused an "overspend" of $750,000 to get the bar running and Hiscox said he never got a chance to sue Barris for damages because of the well-documented collapse of the development company last year.

Valor Ideal, owned by Uruguayan investors and run by Barris, had a Palmerston North property portfolio worth $10.4 million when it was liquidated with debts of $301,292 in September.

"When Barris went tits up it stopped any chance we had of claiming anything from him," Hiscox said. "The pub trades well, it's always busy and it survives on its own, but we just couldn't survive the historical debt we had."

Barris said he did not want to dignify the suggestion he was part of the operation's demise with a response.

"I don't sling mud around but the place has been open for four years. What does that tell you?

"I could defend myself but if he thinks he has just gone broke because of things that happened before he opened he has another think [sic] coming."

Hiscox said he knew the writing was on the wall for his companies - which he owns 50/50 with Loader - in December.

"The banks weren't prepared to be patient with us," he said.

"The whole situation put a lot of pressure on the other pubs we had - we just couldn't keep up with it."

Hiscox spent 17 years in hospitality in Palmerston North and in his time owned Icons, the Terrace Tavern and The Empty Vessel, but it was The Beer Barrel that was his jewel in the crown.

"It's frustrating building something from dirt and seeing it crumble around you. When we went into it that building was derelict and earthquake-prone and we turned it into something awesome," Hiscox said.

"It's heartbreaking for everyone involved that it has come to this.

"I suppose I could chuck my head under a rock and pretend like it hasn't happened but if you put your head on the block you've got to be prepared for the consequences."

Hiscox said he would stay in town and pick himself "back up off the ground".

"My family are here and I have a child with my ex-wife. I will be in Palmerston North but I'll be doing something else.

"I'm not sure what yet, we'll have to wait and see."

Loader said she would not be making any comment on the liquidation other than that The Beer Barrel would continue to trade and was being sold.

Manawatu Standard