Exclusive: Acclaimed Indian restaurant Dilli shuts down after refusing £77,000 rent and rates bill

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Dilli has closed its Stamford New Road restaurant with immediate effect after refusing to pay rents and rates which it says were more than double those of the vacant unit next door.

The renowned Indian restaurant – recently voted one of the top 10 restaurants in Greater Manchester – had just marked a decade in Altrincham after opening in August 2004.

But six weeks ago, after failing to secure a reduction on a £55,000 rent bill, owner Ravi Bajaj decided he would close down when the restaurant’s lease ran out at the end of September.

Customers were only informed of the news via a sudden announcement on Twitter and Facebook yesterday afternoon, which read: “We are sorry to announce that dilli has ceased trading. Thanks for your support which you have gave to us for last 10 years.”

And Bajaj told Altrincham Today that the combination of declining local support and the cost of rent and rates had left him with no option.

“It’s a frustration because I never wanted to close, it’s my baby,” he said. “It is nothing to do with our failure, it is Altrincham which has failed us.”

Landlords Café Rouge sub-let the property at 60 Stamford New Road on behalf of a bigger owner and had demanded an annual rent of £55,000, including VAT. Additionally, Dilli was required to pay £22,000 in annual business rates to Trafford Council.

As a further squeeze on revenue, more and more people now expected to use vouchers and offers in order to secure their food at a discount rate, Bajaj said.

“You have to pay your staff, you have to pay your PAYE, you have to pay your staff. If we discount on all the food, we’re not making any money,” he said.

Manager Pankaj Sharma claimed that vacant units nearby were being advertised with lower rent and rates than their property, and that the unit next door was currently being advertised with a rent of £18,000, with rates of £11,000.

He said: “In order for us to maintain the same high quality of food and service, we have no option but to close.”

Sharma added that there was a “50-50” chance the existing team – including head chef Mohammed Naeem – could relocate to a new venue elsewhere in Altrincham, and that they were currently looking into available premises. Any new operation would not be trading under the Dilli brand, however.

Sharma said he was still committed to Altrincham and was more upbeat about the town’s prospects.

“In 2004 there were more nightclubs and pubs but we have seen the worst time now. In the last year and a half it has been moving ahead, with the hospital and the high street getting busier. The local restaurants I speak to are quite excited about it.

“Altrincham is a lovely place and we don’t want to go, but whether big or small we can reopen somewhere else and grow.”

Earlier this year, the restaurant was ranked one of the 10 most popular restaurants in Greater Manchester in a Manchester Evening News poll. Renowned restaurant critic Jay Rayner said in his Observer review that he “left Dilli very happy indeed”. It is also listed in the Good Food Guide.

Below: Dilli on Stamford New Road

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