Staff at Heston Blumenthal’s Crown Casino eatery Dinner by Heston face an uncertain Christmas and New Year period after the high-end eatery appointed provisional liquidators, raising questions about how it will fulfil its obligations to staff and suppliers.
The business, which has been beset with allegations of staff underpayment, has until January 3 to inform employee-creditors that provisional liquidators have been appointed to the business.
It is unclear how much staff and other creditors are owed as provisional liquidators were appointed on late Friday and are still assessing the financials. Under Australian law, employees are treated as priority creditors in a liquidation and the government can pay for some unpaid entitlements if the business does not have the capacity to do so.
On Friday, Brian Silvia and David Coyne of BRI Ferrier were appointed to Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd, the owner of the restaurant which The Sunday Age and Sun-Herald revealed last year is incorporated through the Caribbean Island of Nevis.
In a statement, the company said that the business would remain operational and it would continue to stay open with “the anticipated co-operation of Crown”.
“The voluntary appointment of the provisional liquidators will enable appropriate actions to continue the restaurant’s current successful and profitable trading and to fulfil its obligations,” the statement said.
On Friday, Federal Court judge Kathleen Farrell ordered that the company notify Crown Casino by Monday of the process, and contact any possible employees, which may be creditors of the company, by January 3.
The company did not comment on the factors that lead to the appointment of a provisional liquidator but it’s understood it is reviewing financial obligations to staff and suppliers of the business.
In December 2018, an investigation by The Sunday Age and Sun-Herald alleged staff at Dinner by Heston regularly worked as much as 25 hours unpaid overtime a week and this saw permanent mid-level staff paid as little as $15 an hour.
The company said it was undertaking a thorough investigation into its processes. At the time, company records showed Dinner by Heston was operating at a loss in 2017/18, though The Tipsy Cake said it was now profitable.
As provisional liquidators, BRI Ferrier has the power to hire and discharge employees, discontinue the business and make arrangements with creditors.
It has not yet completed an assessment of the business and there is no indication of liabilities at this stage.
The Tipsy Cake said Heston Blumenthal did not have any ownership of the Dinner by Heston restaurant.
“Heston Blumenthal does not own the restaurant which operates under a licence to Tipsy Cake. He has had no ownership of any restaurant business anywhere in the world since 2006,” the company said.
All bookings made with the restaurant are expected to be honoured.
This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the original here.