Debts put the final bite on Bloom's

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The Independent Online
The last salt beef sandwich has been served at Bloom's Jewish restaurant in east London. Never again will its famously surly waiters treat customers torn between the Vienna sausages and the fried gefilte fish with abrupt scorn.

Its Jewish customers have moved away from their former East End heartland, red meat is not as popular as it once was and the authorities have turned the road outside into a Red Route, making parking impossible.

The company behind Britain's most famous Jewish restaurant - which last month suffered the temporary indignity of losing its kosher licence - has run up debts of about pounds 200,000 and has reluctantly decided to close the branch in Whitechapel High Street where Morris Bloom first opened for business in 1920.

In those days, the East End had a huge Jewish community with synagogues, schools and restaurants providing for the many thousands of immigrants who had arrived from eastern Europe in the preceding decades.

But as they prospered, the Jewish population moved out of the East End, to be replaced by other influxes of immigrants and today the profit-making part of Bloom's is its restaurant in leafier Golders Green.

The company, M. Bloom (Kosher) & Son Ltd called in Ian Franses, an insolvency practitioner, who advised that the Golders Green restaurant and the firm's wholesale food business should be retained and the Whitechapel restaurant closed and sold.

"It was decided by the directors to close the Whitechapel restaurant, which was very hard for them to do because it was the first restaurant and the most famous one," said Mr Franses yesterday.

Seventeen people have lost their jobs as a result of the closure, several of them waiters who had been with the restaurant for up to 30 years, and who were familiar to generations of Jewish and non-Jewish customers alike.

At a meeting on 11 March, creditors will be told that if they accept the proposals drawn up by Mr Franses, they will receive 54p in the pound, whereas if Bloom's goes into liquidation they will get just 14p in the pound. It is thought certain that they will opt for the former course.

The rear part of the building is owned by the company, while the front belongs to two members of the Bloom family and it is thought that the whole of the premises, worth about pounds 150,000, will be put up for sale. The company may be bought by La Boucherie, a kosher butcher's based in Barnet, north London.

The decision to sell the restaurant is the second setback for the company within a matter of weeks. Last month the Whitechapel branch had its licence withdrawn by the London Beth Din, a supervisory body which confirms a restaurant's adherence to kosher food laws.

A replacement licence was obtained soon after and the incident is not connected to the restaurant's closure, but it was highly embarrassing for a company which has become the symbol of kosher food in Britain.

A member of staff at the Golders Green restaurant said yesterday: "Business has been declining for years but it is a sad day for the Bloom family and for the East End of London."

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