Tax inspectors on Tuesday closed down chef Sergi Arola's internationally renowned Gastro restaurant, alleging he owes some 300,000 euros in back taxes and Social Security payments.
Arola, who was in Paris where he is head chef at the Hotel W Paris-Opéra, explained that the AEAT tax agency would not accept a payment plan he had presented. The restaurant, which employs 14 people and has earned two Michelin stars, was unable to open on Tuesday night.
Arola's wife, Sara Fort, was at the restaurant on Tuesday when Treasury officials showed up to shut the place down. "They came without warning," she said, visibly shaken. At the time, there were already 40 patrons in the dining room. "The customers reacted well, and even brought their own wine once they realized what was happening," she continued.
The restaurant currently owes 148,000 euros in taxes and 160,000 euros in Social Security payments. Until this debt has been paid, the restaurant will not reopen. According to Fort, permanent closure might be avoided if "the bank supports us and trusts in Sergi's reputation."
The restaurant currently owes 148,000 euros in taxes and 160,000 euros in Social Security payments
Despite the restaurant having cut costs in recent months, the Treasury has not accepted the payment plan that was presented by the prestigious chef and his wife. "We have not refused to pay," insists Fort. "We tried to catch up as best we could, but they haven't given us any leeway. If we don't keep the restaurant open, the employment of the whole team will be in danger. "
Arola received word of his restaurant's closing while in Paris, and was reportedly very upset by the news. The Catalan master chef, who was born in Barcelona in 1968, launched Gastro in 2008 with his wife, an award-winning restaurant manager. In 1998, Arola opened La Broche, a small restaurant in northern Madrid. In 2006, the couple began a new project, Arola Gastro, which earned two Michelin stars within two months of opening. The couple also launched Vi-Cool Gastrobar in Madrid, which is similar to the eatery they founded in Roses in 2007 and more recently in Hong Kong. The duo also has restaurants in Barcelona, Portugal, São Paulo, Chile and Bombay.
Despite Tuesday's setback, Arola and Fort remain optimistic: "Whatever happens, we will manage to move on from this."