An iconic music shop could be forced to close down after the owner lost a three-year legal battle with the council.
Jim Bowes, who has run Custard Cube in Accrington for 25 years, said he must now pay £28,000 in costs by the end of November and unless the sum is reduced he will ‘lose everything’.
The 62-year-old lost a civil court case against Hyndburn council over rent arrears dating back to 2010, when Custard Cube was based in the Market Hall.
But Hyndburn Council said Mr Bowes had ‘plenty of time and opportunity to drop his claim for damages and therefore avoid such a high bill’.
Jim, who lives in Accrington, claims the council more than doubled his monthly rent just months after he agreed to move to a different area in the market and after he had invested around £20,000 of his life savings creating a bespoke stall.
Qualified teacher Jim claimed market hall bosses failed to tell him that the move was only ‘temporary’.
He said the rental position became ‘untenable’ and in February 2010 he was forced to relocate onto Blackburn Road.
Jim said two years later the council began recovery proceedings for unpaid rent and he then launched a counterclaim for more than £50,000 in compensation and damages.
He lost both cases at a hearing at Preston Crown Court in December last year and an application to appeal the decision was later dismissed.
Jim said this week he has received a legal bill of £28,000 and fears he will have to close down and sell off his ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of 30,000 CDs and 100,000 vinyl records to help foot the bill.
He told the Observer: “I want the council to be ashamed. I’m 62. I haven’t had a day off for 20 years.
“I’ve put my entire life savings into Custard Cube because I believed in the council.
“I’ve lost my savings, I’ve lost my relationship with my girlfriend, I have lost everything.
“The only thing I have got left is this shop. Because of the present climate in this town I’m just about scratching a living. I’m on a basic, basic wage.
“Accrington doesn’t deserve to lose this place. It’s the biggest of its kind in the north of England. It’s a tourist attraction and a work of art. I must get at least 20 people a week photographing it.
“This is my pride and joy. The council have taken everything away from me which is unforgivable.”
Jim said he is now in contact with a debt advisor to see if the costs can be reduced.
Hyndburn council said the £28,000 bill has come from their insurers solicitors and not the council.
Councillor Clare Cleary said: “The council has not sent Mr Bowes a bill for £28,000. The bill is from a private firm of solicitors who act for the council’s insurers and therefore I wish to stress it is the council’s insurers claiming this sum, not the council.
“I can confirm that Mr Bowes filed a claim for £50,000 damages against the Council. Due to the nature and size of the claim, the case was referred to the council’s insurers who instructed their own solicitors.
“Mr Bowes legal claim was unsuccessful and the £28,000 bill reflects the legal costs incurred by the insurance company in defending the claim.
“I wish to stress that the litigation was driven by Mr Bowes who had plenty of time and opportunity to drop his claim for damages and therefore avoid such a high bill. Ultimately, Mr Bowes could have avoided this situation.”