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Sat 22nd Jun 2013 - Breaking News - Winding up order spells end of Robert Cain
Winding up order issued against Robert Cain Brewery: A winding up order has been issued against Liverpool’s Robert Cain Brewery under the provisions of the Insolvency Act. The winding up order was issued after a petition from HM Revenue and Customs. The winding up order comes a month after the Robert Cain Brewery, owned by the Dusanj family, made its 38 brewery staff redundant and it ended brewing at its historic site. The company has not filed accounts for any period after 2 October 2010. Robert Cain Brewery had lost money since it was set up by the Dusanj family in the wake of the administration of Cains, their previous company, in 2008. The company had lost £2.69m in the two years after administration on turnover of £42.6m but had hoped to turn a profit in its third full financial year post-administration. However, Sudarghara Dusanj told Propel that the company lost a major supermarket own label contract last autumn – and the family had begun to see the writing was on the wall. The freehold of the Cains brewery building is owned by a Dusanj family trust. A plan was unveiled in April that made it clear that the family saw a future for a redeveloped brewery site but not necessarily their brewing company – a new company, Brewery Village, was incorporated on 21 February this year with Sudarghara Dusanj and his brother Ajmail as directors. The family unveiled plans to develop a £50m tourism, leisure and retail destination on its current seven-acre site, with crucial consent for a supermarket underpinning the scheme. A full planning application is expected next month. They want to develop the brewery into a national visitor destination and increase the amount of traditional Cains ales brewed at the site in a new microbrewery. The scheme, called Brewery Village, involves the restoration of the Grade II listed brewery building to house a traditional Cains craft brewery and tour with a sky bar in the roof offering views over the city and the River Mersey. The building would also house a 100-room boutique hotel, digital work studios and a large open plan delicatessen-style food market and restaurant for independent artisan producers to make and sell their produce on site. The plans include a spa, gym and function rooms. The existing Brewery Tap pub would be restored and retained. The vision is that the Brewery Village scheme would create a new tourist destination capable of holding food, craft and cultural events, which would complement the city’s existing retail and leisure offer. A market appraisal of the site predicts it would attract about 500,000 visitors a year once complete. Last month, Propel managing director Paul Charity wrote in Friday Opinion: “Now the future is more or less a property play on the development potential of the brewery. The family already has widespread backing for a plan to develop a Brewery Village, which, actually, would be a pretty good use of a historic building close to the centre of Liverpool. There’s talk of a low-output craft brewery as well, which would be an attractive addition to the proposed food-and-drink development. But, truth is, brewing is no longer at the heart of what the Dusanj family want to do.”

Propel Opinion: The winding up order against Robert Cain Brewery means two liquidations for companies run by the Dusanj family in half a decade. Like last time, there will be creditors out-of-pocket and angry that the Dusanjs will live to fight another day thanks to the freehold of the brewery being held untouchably in a family trust. Redeveloping the site might have been the best way forward for the family when it bought the brewery back in 2002. Company law allows failure without punishment assuming directors have acted in line with their obligations. Creditors will have been hurt by both failures – and there are plenty of people critical of the family’s strategy for the last 11 years. But they have made two valiant attempts to retain large-scale brewing at the Cain’s site. Now Liverpool’s best bet is in allowing a sensitive redevelopment of the large site, something that is likely to lead to more employment than a rather decrepit brewery. In a few decades’ time, The Brewery Village might even come to be seen as the Dusanj family’s Liverpool legacy. 

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