Customs and Excise is trying to shut down Teatro, the trendy London members club owned by husband and wife team Lee Chapman and Leslie Ash.
The ex-Leeds United striker and the former star of Men Behaving Badly have held celebrity-packed parties at the West End venue for more than four years. But it has not led a charmed life. Its sister bar in Leeds was shut down last year with debts of £1.2m, leaving Mr Chapman's former football club £250,000 out of pocket. In London, the pair have struggled to keep the venture profitable, despite a guest list including Tamzin Outhwaite, Matt Damon and Boy George. It had a profit in the year to March 2001 of £2,570 and sales of £1.8m. The couple had to provide personal guarantees for part of its £634,000 debts and Mr Chapman described the financial results as "disappointing".
A spokeswoman for Customs and Excise confirmed that a winding-up petition had been issued against the company but declined to comment on the nature of the debt. However, it is most likely to concern the collection of VAT, which the government department is charged with.
Lee Chapman's lawyer said: "I'm not going to discuss the details, but we are hoping for a resolution fairly quickly."
He said he was not aware of any cash- flow problems at the company. The case will be heard at Companies Court on 11 December.
The couple are better known for their celebrity status than their leisure businesses, and the tabloids are currently concerned with the pumped-up appearance of Ms Ash's lips. They caused a stir in 1997 when Mr Chapman was charged with assaulting his wife, although all charges were later dropped.
Mr Chapman and Ms Ash also own So.UK, a bar and restaurant in Clapham, south London. It lost £48,000 last year on sales of £753,600.