Tenants of the Storey Creative Industries Centre in Lancaster faced bailiff’s notices as they arrived at work on Monday morning.
Managers and staff were shocked to find the passage to their offices blocked by a table and bailiff’s notices stuck to all the doors.
The council took control of the management of the building this week, after previous managers Storey Creative Industries Centre (SCIC) Ltd went into liquidation.
One tenant said: “On Monday morning we were met by a bailiff acting for the city council, as well as the chief executive of the council, behind a table blocking the stairs.
“Every office in the building had a bailiff’s notice stuck on the door.
“Each tenant was presented with a licence that they needed to sign or they wouldn’t be allowed access to the building after a specific time.
“While probably legally necessary, we’re still past and future customers who pay the bills, who have done nothing wrong and kept the building open for ten weeks. Maybe a bit of notice of it happening or a friendly welcome would have set a better tone.
“Sometimes the city council needs to think about taking off its clunky boots before coming through the door.”
Lancaster Visitor Information Centre, which vacated the building in July, has now been moved back in.
The council is now working in partnership with NICE Bar and Restaurant to manage the building until more formal arrangements are agreed in January.
John Angus, who looked after the Storey Gallery element of the building, also left the building last week.
A spokesperson for Lancaster City Council said: “Because of the necessity to undertake certain operational investigations before pursuing legal procedures to gain possession, today was the earliest date that officers could implement the resolution made by Full Council in September.
“Former tenants of SCIC Ltd have been invited to sign licences to permit them to continue operating their businesses from the rooms they occupy in the building until formal leases are granted to them by the council.
“They will play an important part in securing the future of the Storey Institute and the city council will be working with them closely to secure its true potential.”
Mark Cullinan, Lancaster City Council’s chief executive, said: “Since the Full Council took its decision to keep the Storey Institute open as a centre for the creative industries, we have been working towards regaining possession as soon as possible.
“Issues regarding company liquidation are never easy and that it is why it has taken until now to reach this position and for the head lease to be returned.
“In the interim the tenants themselves have been running the building and we are grateful to them for their continued support.
“The next stage is for the city council to continue to work with the tenants to make the building sustainable.”
The city council said it chose the process known as ‘forfeiture by peaceable re-entry’ to secure the return of the building.
This required the assistance of a certified bailiff to ensure that the procedure was conducted in accordance with the law.