Sheffield spa customers still waiting for refunds after sudden closure

Customers of a Sheffield spa which closed suddenly are still waiting for their promised refunds, with the owner now saying the business is on ‘pause’ as he battles the council in a row over bus gates.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 10:26 am
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 3:21 pm

Spa 1877 announced it was shutting with immediate effect on Thursday, September 5, with its owner Steve Wilkinson blaming the decision on controversial bus gates on Glossop Road in the city centre which he claims have cost the company hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost revenue.

In a statement issued that day, Mr Wilkinson said: “I will be informing everyone with booking deposits and gift vouchers about how to be reimbursed once I have organised the matters around our spa team and their rights. I expect to be in a position next week to let everyone know what is happening.”

But disappointed customers say they are still waiting for refunds, or for any update, with their calls and emails going unanswered.

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Steve Wilkinson, of Spa 1877
Steve Wilkinson, of Spa 1877

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Mr Wilkinson now says the business could yet reopen under a different model and insists nobody will be left ‘out of pocket’.

But he would not say when people can expect a refund, claiming he has the money but the difficulty lies in the ‘logistics’ since he has no admin staff, having let all his employees go.

“At the moment I’ve hit the pause button. I can’t carry on with the spa as things stand but there’s too much money invested in it just to let it go,” he said.

“I didn’t make this decision lightly. When I made that statement my intention was to look at the best way forward for refunding people, which is what I intend to do.

“It’s not that we don’t have the money. It’s the logistics, because we haven’t got any admin staff to process the refunds.

“The vouchers remain valid and will be extended for people. Nobody will be left out of pocket.”

No public update has been issued since the closure was announced, and several customers have have spoken of their disappointment at being left in the dark, with emails .

Christine Wilson told how she had a treatment booked for the day after the spa closed and although she managed to get the money back from her credit company, she has been unable to get her £10 deposit refunded since no record could be found of that payment.

“I feel so sorry for the staff because they’re lovely, and it’s a bit disgusting the owner hasn't even got in touch with any customers to keep them updated,” said the 50-year-old secretary, who lives in Longley.

“I understand he has his problems but I’ve spent a fortune there and I feel he could treat customers with a bit more loyalty.”

Anne Mason told how her husband had bought her and their daughter a £70 gift voucher each for the spa which they had yet to use.

“It’s the lack of information I struggle with. If it’s going to reopen that would be fantastic because I’ve been quite often to the spa and used to go to the swimming baths as a child so I have lots of fond memories of the place,” said the 64-year-old retired businesswoman, of Dronfield.

Mr Wilkinson appears to be focused on his fight against the bus gates, which last year generated more than £100,000 in fines but he claims are unlawful.

Having lost an appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal over fines he received, he says he is now waiting for the outcome of an appeal to the tribunal’s chief adjudicator.

The Sheffield Bath Company, which runs the spa, remains active. The last accounts filed for the company, of which Mr Wilkinson is the sole director, showed it had net assets as of December 31, 2017 of £293,940.

The Star understands that Mr Wilkinson also owns the leasehold on the Victorian building in which the spa is located, formerly known to many as ‘Glossop Road Baths’.

Spa 1877, which is on Victoria Street, near West Street, opened in 2004 after a major restoration of the building and the Turkish baths within.

Bus and tram gates were installed in 2010 on Glossop Road to ease the flow of public transport during peak hours, but it is since the set-up was changed in 2017 that they have proved particularly controversial.

That year, Mr Wilkinson issued Sheffield Council with a bill for £296,000, which is how much he claimed to have lost in revenue since the gates were introduced.

The gates have been criticised by other business people on the road, with one claiming they have cost him up to £1,000 a week; and by a city centre residents group, which claims the system is unnecessarily confusing, putting off drivers from visiting the area and catching out many of those who do.