A CAFE which achieved national fame for its 99p breakfast has closed suddenly with staff sent home and equipment removed.

Grafters Cafe shut yesterday amid claims several people are owed money.

Owner Spencer Freedman has insisted it is simply closed for a few days for refurbishment, despite only opening in May.

He strenuously denied items have been removed due to unpaid bills, but did admit some people are owed money for services provided.

The cafe launched a 99p full English breakfast when it opened and later launched a pay it forward scheme for the homeless.

However it is claimed the venue has suffered its own financial troubles.

Former employee Tyran Sheppard, 33, from Southchurch, said: “Spencer owes me about £1,650 and I had to go about two months with no money in my pocket.

“I had to go to food banks to feed my family.

“It was an awful time of my life.

“I worked there from July until September.”

Charlotte Wright, said: “I did all the sign writing inside back in July and haven’t been paid.

“I am still chasing him and getting fobbed off.

“It is not a small amount either.”

Simon Harris, 35, from Hockley, said: “I did some social media work for him and he owes me less than £200, for about three weeks’ work. He kept telling me to hold off with payment for longer and that I couldn’t go and collect the money as he couldn’t put it through the till.”

Mr Freedman spoke to the Echo about the allegations.

He said: “I have spoken with Simon Harris and do still owe him about £120.

“We no longer take credit cards, but I have told him to come into the cafe and I will give him the cash.

“I have also sorted payment for Charlotte Wright and spoke to her boyfriend and told him we will pay about £75 each week and this will start next week.

“Tyran was paid in full.

“We will be closed for about four or five days and I have had to send staff home, but they will be back after the refurbishment.

“I don’t want to disclose how much it is costing but we are installing new extractor equipment, decorating and adding a new menu.

“We want to create a brighter, more family environment for our customers.”

Last month Mr Freedman claimed he received death threats during a “hate campaign” following claims he was not paying staff properly, which he denies.

Essex Police is investigating the claims.