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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Staff set to take over ownership of popular Barrow venue and restaurant

STAFF who work at a Barrow restaurant and entertainment venue are to buy the firm from its owners in an innovative scheme.

Rob Rollings put Barrow’s Custom House up for sale with a price tag of £1.4m in August 2012, saying at the time that he was in no rush and was keen to find the right buyer.

Now close to two years later and 14 years after he first bought the venue, Mr Rollings and his wife and business partner Zo, can reveal the new owners are the workers, thanks to a novel employee ownership scheme.

“We’d been looking for someone who was prepared to take the business forward, who wouldn’t just come in and asset strip it,” he explained.

“After a year or so we thought maybe we need to think of a ‘plan B’ and we came up with the idea of transferring it into employee ownership.”

Under the transfer – a complex legal process – the Custom House including the PlayZone, LazarZone and Burger Parlour, will be “sold” to a trust. Over the next 10 years, the trust will pay Mr and Mrs Rollings an amount every month until the loan is repaid.

The trust will, in effect, own the business and will be run for the benefit of the employees.

There are thought to be just two other employee-owned firms in Cumbria, and none in the south of the county. One of the world’s most famous is John Lewis.

Mr and Mrs Rollings have selected July 4 as the date on which ownership of their business will transfer over to the trust – a date deliberately picked because of its significance.

“It’s Independence Day but it’s also National Employee Ownership Day,” Mr Rollings said.

“After that date, we will remain as directors of the operating company so we will still influence the day-to-day running but we will not have any ownership.”

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