ADMINISTRATORS of the Wine Cellar off-licence and convenience store group said today they had cut 320 jobs at the firm.
Cheshire-based Wine Cellar, which operates under the Booze Buster, Simply Drinks and Simply Food & Drinks names in the North West and North East, called in Deloitte yesterday.
The family-owned group had 170 stores but Deloitte said 109 have been sold to EFB Retail, preserving 640 jobs at these outlets and around 60 staff in its Runcorn head office. The remaining 61 stores will close.
Deloitte partner Bill Dawson said: ``The company has undertaken an extensive search to find an investor or buyer. It has become necessary to sell the business via an administration, due to its financial position.''
EFB Retail is a subsidiary of Walsall-based drink wholesaler European Food Brokers, which is owned by Rajinder Chatha.
Mr Chatha, who also owns the Whittalls Wines chain, is worth an estimated £50 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
The latest accounts available for the Wine Cellar group showed pre-tax losses of almost £1 million in the year to January 27 last year, on sales of £62.6 million.
Despite the losses, the accounts said the group "continued to buck the trend of a challenging retail alcohol market".
It said the credit crunch and the smoking ban had encouraged drinking at home, while its move into convenience stores through the Simply Food & Drink stores had driven local custom.
"The directors are confident of continued improvements in trading at a like for like level," the accounts added.