Refunds made after locks are changed at Old Mill

A bride-to-be has spoken of her relief after receiving a full refund for her planned wedding reception, which was cancelled following the closure of the Old Mill in Alsager.
Landlord Admiral Taverns changed the locks at the inn, off Crewe Road, after serving a “notice of peaceable entry” following what a note in a window at the premises said was “non-payment of arrears and liquidation”.
The tenant company running the premises was Coastal and Country Inns, trading as The Old Mill, under the directorship of Christopher Hannon, which went into liquidation in March. A company called Coastal and Country Inns (OM), with Mr Hannon as director, is still trading.
Fifty-two-year-old Alsager woman Erica Smith had booked the inn so she and fiancé Gareth could celebrate their wedding with family and friends after their marriage ceremony, which had been due to take place at Newcastle Register Office on 16th April.
Miss Smith said: “Gareth had a nasty accident at work the year before last so we thought we would go ahead and get married.”
Mr Evans fell and snapped a tendon and it then went septic. He was told if he fell again he could have to his leg amputated, she explained.
“To us, the wedding was everything,” Miss Smith added.
She said they wanted the reception at the Old Mill as it was a central location for guests and they had enjoyed family functions there over the years.
Miss Smith explained that at the end of February they paid £388 for meals for around 22 guests while Mr Evans's mother paid £150 for the couple's room at the Old Mill on their wedding night.
The register office cancelled the wedding on 20th March, just days before the lockdown was officially announced.
As a result, the couple went to the Old Mill, hours before the Government told pubs and restaurants to close.
Miss Smith said: “The manager came out and said she could not talk to us now as she had a funeral party coming and that she was doing the buffet as there was no chef. She said come back tomorrow.”
Miss Smith had planned to go back on Mother's Day, by which time pubs and restaurants had been closed due to the coronavirus restrictions.
In the meantime she had been in contact with the father of the Old Mill's former chef who claimed his son was owed £800 in wages.
“He told me the company had gone into liquidation and he showed me the liquidation papers,” she explained. “I was absolutely furious. We decided to be really calm when we returned to the Old Mill on the Sunday. The manager told us not to worry and that our wedding would still go ahead. I told her the company had gone into liquidation but she said it hadn't. She said we were getting confused with a pub in Grimsby.”
Miss Smith said she told the manager she could show her the liquidation papers.
She added: “I told her she knew it had gone into liquidation but still took our money.
“She then said I had to speak to the owner, Christopher Hannon, of Coasts and Country.
“He rang me on the Monday. He said I could not have my money back due to the coronavirus outbreak but I said it had nothing to do with that,” Miss Smith said.
“They said they would speak to their accountants and that was the last I heard.”
She claimed they told her she had paid the money to a company called Coastal and Country Inns OM.
Describing how she felt about what had happened Miss Smith, who works at Millcroft Medical Centre in Crewe, said: “At the time it was understandable because of the covid situation but what happened since has been like a stab in the back. I could not believe it. I didn't expect it at all.
“If somebody took the Old Mill over and honoured our booking, we would have the wedding there. It's so central. My daughter had her 21st there some years ago and I had my 50th there. It would have been ideal.”
This week, as the Chronicle made enquiries about the Old Mill, Miss Smith received a full refund of £538.
She said: “We are relieved, to say the least. At least we can move forward now knowing that we can make other plans.”
Michael Grocott, of Kidsgrove, who had been the chef at The Old Mill for 10 months before its closure, is still owed £800, according to his father.
“The manager pre-warned Michael that it was going under before he left,” said Martin Grocott. “They gave him a wage slip but he never received the money. We've got absolutely nowhere since.”
Mr Hannon confirmed refunds will continue to be made and that all staff were paid.
The sign posted at the front of the Old Mill had said: “Notice of peaceable entry. Please note that due to non-payment of arrears and liquidation the landlord has peaceably re-entered the premises, changed the locks and has forfeited rights, agreement or interest in the premises held by the occupier.”
It also gave a contact number in Chester for further information.
A spokesperson for Chester-based Admiral Taverns said: “We can confirm that the Old Mill has temporarily closed. We have taken the pub back in hand and are looking to find a new licensee for the pub as soon as possible in order to reopen the venue for the local community of Alsager. For anyone interested, please contact us on 01244 321171.”