Turncoat Gin nearly went bankrupt when it was forced to close a few weeks after opening


The owner of a Liverpool gin distillery has revealed how his business is on the verge of shutting down after being forced to close due to the Covid lockdown – just one month after launching.

The Turncoat Distillery opened the doors of its first gin bar at the Royal Albert Dock on February 7, tucked away in the basement of the iconic location, under the Revolución de Cuba.

In March, the coronavirus pandemic forced the hospitality industry to shut down, and until lockdown restrictions were relaxed on April 12 of this year – 13 months – the bar had only negotiated for a total of 96 days.

Much to the relief of owner Terry Langton, who founded the business in a garage in 2016, it has now reopened to outside customers, following national guidelines.

Mr Langton told BusinessLive how close the company is to bankruptcy, how he managed to keep it afloat – and why he is now optimistic about the future.

Inside Turncoat on the Albert Dock

He said it was “very difficult” to have to close so soon after opening, adding: “We didn’t know what to do for the best.

“We had a very slow launch due to construction delays pushing back the date several times.

“We ended up launching in February, which is the worst time of the year, especially if you want to increase your income and get positive cash flow.

“But on top of that, there were two major storms that left everyone at home. Then the Prime Minister told everyone to stay home. I don’t think we had a normal trading week when we opened. I was out of breath. “

Mr Langton said the company was “very close” to total bankruptcy and that government funding was, at least initially, “slow and clumsy”.

He added, “If all of our lenders wanted their money, maybe we should have folded. It was very surreal.

“Eventually the board settled the rate issue and we started to get the funding and get the leave.

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He said the company was using “every” government support program available to keep its business alive – from bounce loans to holidays to “a myriad of grants that really baffled me.”

“We are in business only because of local and government support – so it is just plain stupid to complain about the delays and confusion,” he said.

He added that the bar is funded by independent lender Propel, who “supported us every step of the way,” including with payment holidays, reduced payments and interest-only transactions.

“We wanted to get to a position where we were still making payments rather than getting involved and having massive arrears.

“It could have created a situation that was impossible to recover when we started negotiating again. It was difficult to use the working capital and not know when we could open – it was almost impossible to plan.

Mr Langton said he had made an “ethical decision” not to fire his 19 staff – and that he was “very proud” of it.

He said: “We had worked hard to put together a team and I wanted to keep everyone.

“It ended up burning a lot of working capital, even with the leave, but when we started to raise the team was ready.

“We could reopen very quickly for summer 2020. I think it resonated with our team, from bar staff to managers, that we are not just a numbers organization, we care and respect the team. We thought it was a good investment that is paying off. “

The company also pivoted to open a pizza kitchen at the bar due to reopening restrictions – Bar Voltagabbana – one of which was in the garden of St Luke’s Bombed Out Church and at the Botanical Gin Garden in the Triangle of the Baltic.

He said: “It was a difficult thing to ask the team; installing two new kitchens in the blink of an eye, with a new touchless control system, a country kitchen installed and fresh dough – but we did it.

Illustration by local artist Jazz Stan inside Turncoat on the Royal Albert Dock

“It meant the kitchen crews still had jobs and we could generate some income.”

Despite the challenges, Langton and his team are now “very optimistic” about the future, and such future initiatives include launching new products, opening a new bar with business partners on Hope Street and growing of the brand Voltagabanna.

He added: “Liverpool is a welcoming city in every sense of the word – it’s our strength as a city and as a business. We all work hard and believe in what we do – that’s what will get us out of this.

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