CREDITORS of three failed Bendigo based hospitality businesses that entered into voluntary liquidation late last month are owed more than $553,000.

Documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission by liquidator Richard Rohrt from Melbourne based accountancy firm Hamilton Murphy show The Green Olive Pty Ltd, Bath Lane Café Pty Ltd and Café Au Lait (Vic) Pty Ltd had just $56.72 in assets between them when members voted to wind the companies up during a series of special meetings urgently convened on Thursday, March 22.

The Australian Tax Office is owed $270,079.62 in taxes, while a further $188,214 in compulsory superannuation payments is also listed as owing.

Staff employed by two of the collapsed businesses are owed $25,345.99 in holiday pay, while other unsecured creditors include Pacific Hydro, JL King, Energy Australia, Caterwerx, Allianz Insurance, Simply Energy and Cadell Food Services.

One creditor, who spoke to the Bendigo Weekly on the condition of anonymity, yesterday said it was outrageous that an individual, or individuals, can allow these situations to continue to occur, and in the interim, employees become victims as a consequence of poor governance and directors seemingly failing to properly discharge their respective duties.

Employees of Café Au Lait (Vic) Pty Ltd are owed $77,096 in unpaid super; Bath Lane Café Pty Ltd staff are owed $60,284 and workers employed by The Green Olive Pty Ltd have $50,834 of compulsory superannuation payments owing to them.

It’s understood that the affected employees will be eligible to access the federal government’s legislative safety net scheme of last resort – the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, for their unpaid holiday pay.

The scheme is available for eligible employees who lose their job due to the liquidation or bankruptcy of their employer, but the employees’ unpaid $188,214 of compulsory superannuation contributions is not covered by this scheme, and would need to be pursued through the Australian Tax Office.

The Bendigo Weekly reported last week that the sole director of each of the three companies now in liquidation was 76-year-old Gillian Claire Brown, a resident of a Nathalia nursing home and the mother of Bendigo hospitality figure Paul Robert Moran.

Mr Moran yesterday told the Bendigo Weekly while he was not a director of any of the involved companies, he was committed to working on a remedy to the situation, noting the pending sale of two of the cafes and that proceeds from these sales could go towards outstanding staff entitlements.

Mr Moran was also critical of media coverage of the situation and of the plight facing his family’s businesses, describing it as excessive, especially as sales where close to being achieved.

Mr Moran is the sole shareholder of Café Au Lait (Vic) Pty Ltd, and the ASIC documents list another business he is believed to be associated with, Boom Town Coffee, as being owed $1908 by the company he owns, while Boom Town Coffee is also owed $1521.64 by Bath Lane Café Pty Ltd.

The sole shareholder of The Green Olive Pty Ltd is Mr Moran’s sister, Helen Louise Moran, who is also listed as being owed $4133.92 in entitlements by Café Au Lait (Vic) Pty Ltd, and a further $7248.20 by Bath Lane Café Pty Ltd.

In 2014, Mr Moran sold the three cafes, and later placed the businesses that once controlled those venues into liquidation. At that time, more than $200,000 was owed to creditors, and consultants JP Downey and Co were appointed liquidators, with the Australian Tax Office the largest creditor.

Mr Moran has also applied for a restaurant and café licence at the prominent Condon Street premises formerly occupied by Hashtag. The application shows the new café and bar to be operated by Mr Moran, will be known as Solsbury Hill.

The liquidator for The Green Olive Pty Ltd, Bath Lane Café Pty Ltd and Café Au Lait (Vic) Pty Ltd was contacted for comment but was unavailable.

– Peter Kennedy