Proud East: Brothers' bitter row over Hackney venue spills over into court
PUBLISHED: 16:48 27 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:01 27 November 2017
Bex Walton/Flickr (Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0)
A family feud at the top table of Proud East in Haggerston spilled over into the courtroom.
It saw two brothers from the Proud family try and fail to seize the office they were letting out to the third. But that brother, Hector Proud, was ordered to hand his family £23,400 in unpaid rent.
Hector, who originally owned the popular Regent’s Canal cafe bar Proud Archivist, asked his brothers to help run it in January 2016. Nineteen days later, he signed his business, Modern History Space, over to the family firm Proud Estates Ltd for £1, along with the lease on the Proud Archivist.
Channel 4 “Four Rooms” arts dealer and gallery and nightclub owner Alex, and accountant Christopher, has now been accused in Hector’s witness statement of “bullying” Hector into giving up his venue. Alex has roundly denied the claims.
The deal left Hector to run his remaining PR business, the Culture-Brand Consultancy, from an office on the same site, which he was renting from his brothers. But he has refused to pay rent on it and amassed £40,000 in arrears, Alex and Christopher have claimed.
The row between the brothers made the Gazette’s front page in April 2016, when Alex hired a bouncer to stop punters from using the toilets at a comedy night run in the venue’s annexe by Hector.
Hector claims the dispute over toilets was one of the reasons he refused to pay rent. But Alex claimed in a statement that the toilet row, which was revealed by the Gazette in 2016, had only lasted a week and had been resolved. “Hector has been allowed to use the toilet facilities despite the Proud estate being fully within their rights to deny access to non-paying tenants,” he said.
On Tuesday last week the claim to seize control of Hector’s office was thrown out by District Judge Bell, who awarded Hector costs – because of a technical error that saw court papers served too early.
But Hector, 41, was ordered to pay part of the disputed amount – £23,407.58 plus interest – to Proud Estates Ltd, headed by his mother Ulrike since the death of her husband Edward in February aged 86.
He now has 28 days to lodge his defence against being billed for the rest of the £40,000 before the case is due back in court in the new year.
Hector’s barrister Stuart Armstrong told the judge on November 15 his client’s witness statement had allegations of “very, very serious and potentially criminal conduct” and “intimidation, duress, deceit and undue conduct”. “Not words I bang about lightly,” he said.
“The conduct goes right to the heart of Hector Proud not being able to carry out his business and in effect destroying his business.”
Hector claims he spent half a million kitting out the concrete and metal shell before it opened in 2013, and although the venue made a loss of £250,000 in its first year, the Proud Archivist had broken even by March 2015.
It had been making on average £4,000 a week profit, he alleges, before his brothers got involved – a claim he says is backed up by documents submitted to the court.
Hector claims he was acting “under duress” when he signed papers giving control of the venue to Proud Estates Ltd, worried he would otherwise be “locked out” of the property they own.
The café-bar was then rebranded Proud East by Alex, 48, who also runs Proud Camden. The business was registered insolvent in March 2016.
Alex, who was not in court, told the Gazette afterwards that he and his brother Christopher had simply been acting on their mother’s instructions.
He described how the “horrendous accusations” were all refuted by his family, and were “ripping them apart”.
He denied he and Christopher had “bullied” Hector out of his business.
“With debts of over £700,000, Hector’s options were very limited,” he said, “and he himself brought about the insolvency. He managed the insolvency process himself and did not dispute it at the time”.