An award-winning Sunderland cafe is hunting for new premises after closing its doors suddenly.
The owners and staff at ThePlace Café cleared out the premises at ThePlace, in Athenaeum Street, over the weekend, leaving many baffled as the cafe appeared to vanish overnight.
Owner Parviz Alizadeh – known as Ali – claimed increasing service charges from landlord Siglion meant it was unaffordable to remain in its current premises.
Siglion has told the Echo the issue is “subject to ongoing legal proceedings relating to unpaid rent and services charges”.
Just over a year ago, popular ThePlace saw off tough competition to take home The Echo’s Cafe of the Year award.
Now Ali and his team are desperately searching for a new home for the eaterie, which they hope will reopen as soon as possible.
We did not want to leave but have been left with no options. All of our team are just as devastated as are we.Parviz Alizadeh, cafe owner.
Ali said: “It is with deepest regret that ThePlace Café is no longer at ThePlace.”
He added that “due to on-going problems with our landlords” that it was “simply not viable for us as a company to remain trading from ThePlace and have been forced to leave”.
He continued: “We feel that the only way for us to remain there, is to increase our prices and pass this on to our customers, which we are not prepared to do.
“We did not want to leave but have been left with no options. All of our team are just as devastated as are we.
“They have been so supportive, we are staying together and working hard to be up and running in new premises soon.
“As soon as we are back up and in operation we will let you all know.”
Ali added that customers who may have paid a deposit for an upcoming function, will be contacted personally as soon as possible and given immediate refunds.
Siglion CEO John Seager said: “We can’t comment in any great detail about ThePlace Café, as the matter is subject to ongoing legal proceedings relating to unpaid rent and services charges.
“As a responsible landlord, committed to helping new businesses we have tried to work closely with the café owners to resolve issues involving payment.”
A worker in the same building told the Echo he had no idea what had happened to the cafe.
He said: “It was there on Friday and we came in on Monday and it’s just gone.”
A woman who arrived intending to enjoy a spot of lunch at ThePlace, appeared disappointed that the premises had been cleared out.
She said: “I’m in shock. This is the best coffee shop in Sunderland.”