Club owner has to pay back debt

A SNOOKER club owner wept in court as she told of her battle to keep the venture open despite debts of £19,335.

Sarah Hill faced legal action from Erewash Borough Council over the unpaid business rates for The Q Room in Rutland Mills, Ilkeston.

She appeared at the magistrates’ court in Derby and was found to have shown “culpable neglect” in failing to clear the debt which dates between 2009 and last year.

Ms Hill, 34, told the court: “When we first opened the business in 2008, me and my boyfriend maybe didn’t look fully at all the cost implications to have a small business.

“I didn’t realise the business rates would be so high. It is a very seasonable business.

“It is a members’ club and we have members from six to 90. I see them on a regular basis.

“I have buried customers. I still don’t want to close the club.

“We want to get to the stage where the business sustains itself. We don’t take any money out of it,” said Ms Hill.

District Judge Caroline Goulborn told her:”I understand what you have said to me but you owe a vast amount of money.

“I understand how difficult that can make life but you are due to go to prison for not paying that money,” she warned.

The judge imposed a 90-day jail sentence, which is suspended while Ms Hill pays £500 monthly off the arrears. The case was adjourned until July 19 to check payments. Ms Hill was ordered to have sold a Lexus car for £1,000 by that date and to have handed the cash to the council.

Ms Hill said the car had been put on EBay for £1,500 and she had received an offer of £1,200. She spent £14,000 to “start the business and buy the assets.”

Ms Hill had offered to pay £600 monthly but the judge felt that would be difficult and would make “life even harder.”

Ms Hill said she now had a sales job, adding:”I don’t want to declare myself bankrupt.”

Chris Neal, the council’s recovery team leader, said the authority had been given two liability orders in 2010, entitling them to send in bailiffs to seize items to clear the debt.

He told the court:”They returned to the council unable to get any more money.

“They had a look at removing huge snooker tables but felt it would be very costly and not considered viable.”