Factory: The Project leaves behind $500,000 worth of debt
A MAROOCHYDORE nightclub that promoted itself as a strong supporter of local business has left a trail of debts totalling almost $500,000 after suddenly closing its doors.
The nightclub, Factory: The Project, shut down last month when its operator, Raw Group Sunshine Plaza Pty Ltd, went into liquidation owing $425,000 to creditors across Australia.
Documents obtained from liquidator FTI Consulting showed that included $115,000 owed to 28 Sunshine Coast businesses.
The Australian Tax Office is owed a further $72,700 and about 50 former employees are owed a total of $45,000, with many saying they have also not been paid superannuation since July last year.
Documents sent out to more than 120 affected creditors revealed Cotton Tree Meats is owed $17,466, Lend Lease Property Management $67,875, Suncoast Cabs $1430 and Sunshine Coast Brewery $2300.
Just a month before the nightclub closed, Raw Group Sunshine Plaza Pty Ltd director Zeke Rowland and his wife, Claire de Lune, called on Coast residents to support local business owners as they "struggled to compete" with supermarket-owned hotels offering cut-price drinks.
Ms de Lune said the future of the business had relied on the success of an investment that fell through two days before the company had declared voluntary insolvency.
"We thought we were having a cash injection," she said.
"The investment fell through and there was simply nothing we could do because we pinned everything on that investment."
Ms de Lune said she had personally been in contact with local suppliers to discuss how she could repay them and was working on "various design projects" to make it possible.
However, Suncoast Cabs general manager John Lobwein said he was disappointed the nightclub had not paid its debts to the many local businesses left "with their pants down".
"It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion," he said.
Mr Lobwein said the Factory had formed a partnership with Ocean St business Solbar to hire taxi rank marshals, but while Solbar kept its half of the bargain, the Factory allegedly did not.
"Solbar paid their half and the Factory didn't, which is disappointing," Mr Lobwein said.
Sunshine Coast Brewery owner Greg Curran said as a small businessman he would struggle to make up for the unpaid $2300.
"We use local food and beverage when we can and we like to see other businesses do the same, but I don't like to see them leave businesses in the lurch," he said. "It's disappointing, definitely."
Liquidator Nathan Landrey, of FTI Consulting, said he doubted any creditors would receive money owed to them.
"Employees who are owed annual leave may be entitled to lodge a claim under the Fair Entitlement Guarantee scheme," he said.
Ms de Lune said the closure was a "huge shock" and a "massive grieving process" for everyone involved.
"We got popular so quickly we got targeted ... by a national company," she said. "We went from doing high revenue every week to that revenue literally being 'thirded'."
Read what the staff of The Factory: The Project had to say below...
"LEFT IN THE DARK" STAFF SPEAK OUT ABOUT CLOSURE
FORMER staff of Factory: The Project said they had been left in the dark about the impending demise of the business and one said they were concerned they could become homeless.
The workers told the Daily they were "angry" and "upset" when they learnt they were about to be unemployed.
"I was absolutely shocked and gutted," said one employee who wished to remain anonymous. "They never told us anything ... we found out literally when they were closing."
Claire de Lune, who has previously promoted herself as the venue's co-owner, said she "communicated openly with staff" and always tried to do her best by them.
Ms de Lune now calls herself the venue's "designer" although her status on website LinkedIn credits her as being "owner/designer".
When told her former employees had said they were kept in the dark, she said it was a "hugely traumatic time".
"We did our absolute best to treat our staff like family," Ms de Lune said.
Two former staff members who spoke to the Daily said they were lucky to have found new jobs, but another, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he was broke and almost homeless as a result.
"I considered myself a really good employee," he said. "I worked really hard for them and I feel really offended.
"I've gone through $1500 of savings to pay for rent, moving out.
"I've gone into the shops and applied online for over 60 jobs ... I'm kind of freaking out."
To make matters worse, the three employees said they had not been paid superannuation since last July.
Ms de Lune said she was unaware staff had not been paid superannuation.
She said she would look into the problem.
"We are working with the liquidators to rectify any outstanding staff entitlements," she said.