Seafood shop faces closure after more than 60 years after rates row

PUBLISHED: 10:08 06 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 06 August 2020

Cookies Crab Shop, Salthouse. Owners Peter and Suzanne McKnespiey say it is unfair that they have not been given business rate relief. Picture: Antony Kelly

Cookies Crab Shop, Salthouse. Owners Peter and Suzanne McKnespiey say it is unfair that they have not been given business rate relief. Picture: Antony Kelly

Archant Norfolk 2014

A seafood shop which has been operating in north Norfolk for more than 60 years is facing closure after being told to pay business rates – despite being closed since November.

Cookie’s Crab Shop in Salthouse near Holt has been in the Cooke family since it opened in 1956.

Owners Peter and Suzanne McKnespiey temporarily closed the site in November for a revamp and have been unable to reopen it since due to the end of the season and then the coronavirus pandemic.

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But because they were not open in March the pair have been told they are not eligible for business rates relief, though the shop is empty.

Mr McKnespiey said: “We’ve supported the north Norfolk economy since my wife’s parents started the shop in 1956. We’ve done everything we can to put locally-produced and caught food on the map, working with Paul Vickery and the Hairy Bikers, all while keeping our prices low. At a time like this you’d hope to get some support back but we’ve had nothing – it seems unfair.”

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North Norfolk District Council, which manages business rates for the area, said it cannot comment on individual cases.

Mr McKnespiey has also been told he is not eligible for any grants.

He said: “We spent about £15,000 on the renovation and we’ve only got about ten weeks left of the season. I couldn’t make back what I’d need to – if I tried to reopen I’d go bust so there’s no point.

“I don’t know if it means the end of the shop forever. It could do. I’ve got people who have worked for me for 13 years and very loyal customers. We’ve had some very happy memories here but ten weeks to make what I’d need to in a year isn’t possible.”

Mr McKnespiey added that droves of customers email him daily asking when he’ll reopen.

“We’ve kept our prices low so that anyone can come here. People want to come back but it’s just not viable when you’re paying rates for an empty shop,” he said.

A spokesman for North Norfolk District Council said: “Whilst North Norfolk District Council cannot comment on individual cases, over the course of COVID-19, we have processed over £54m in funding, grants and rates relief for local businesses in north norfolk in funding. The financial aid comes from a central government pot, which carries specific criteria for allocation.”

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