Dozens of workers have been left thousands of dollars out of pocket after a popular Mandurah cafe suddenly closed its doors without paying staff with a liquidator now appointed.
Samudera Artisan Food and Bakehouse owners Nathan and Angela Loaring blamed COVID restrictions and mask mandates for the demise of their businesses, including their Mandurah restaurant, a Malaga bakery, and a recently opened Perth CBD coffee to go outlet.
Baker John Burnett said he was owed more than $10,000 when the couple abruptly closed the doors to the prominent Mandurah venue in March.
“With all my holidays and everything, they owe me about $12,000,” Mr Burnett said.
“We haven’t received any payments yet.”
Samudera closed on March 9, with all equipment and vehicles removed from their Mandurah venue within 48 hours.
Liquidators were appointed more than two months later on May 21.
Mr Burnett said he was given less than 24-hours notice about the closure.
“Most people received a text message a day before the closure and it pretty much said due to issues with COVID, we’ve had to close, with close of business as of tomorrow,” Mr Burnett said.
“Some staff weren’t told and had to be told by other staff.”
The 34-year-old explained the owners tried to help by finding staff jobs at other local businesses but he was still owed money.
Ticcidew liquidator Simon Coad said he was investigating the issue but that more than 40 staff and several suppliers were owed well into six figures.
“There are a whole number of people who haven’t been paid and have outstanding wages and annual leave,” Mr Coad said.
“We’re currently working through that.These are companies which have got very little in assets. There’s virtually nothing left in assets of them.”
Mr Coad said staff could maybe paid through the government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme but that couldn’t happen until the company went into liquidation – a process that he says can take just a few days.
“Though it shut a couple of months ago, as you can see, it’s only just gone into liquidation now,” Mr Coad explained.
“The process will be that the employees will submit their claims to FEG and we will check them ourselves against the records of the company.
“That will, sort of, sought out any employees, in due course. It might take a couple of months until they get paid.”
Chief executive officer of Evoo Quality Foods Mark Paino said he engaged a lawyer and a debt collector to serve Mr Loaring court papers after he, as a supplier, was left more than $60,000 out of pocket.
“The debt collector could not find him,” Mr Paino said.
“They went to his house, his businesses, everywhere I suggested, and they could not find him.
In March, Evoo Quality foods office manager Danielle Pennings said Samudera had not made a payment in over three months.
“The day before he closed he rang and asked to pick up his order the next day,” she said.
“Then he said he would be in [that] afternoon but never showed up.”
It’s not the first time Mr Paino has lost money, he was left in a similar situation over a decade ago.
“I’ve been through this shit with another guy about 15-years ago,” Mr Paino said.
“I lost all that money, too.”
Mr Coad said a company’s suppliers during a liquidation process become unsecured creditors.
“We would anticipate there may be actions to reclaim money in the liquidations, which is one of the things we’re looking at,” Mr Coad said.
Mr Coad said he was only at the beginning of the process, working to figure out exactly how much Samudera owed.
“They won’t be reopening anytime soon, in whatever format, I can tell you that,” Mr Coad said.
“Yes, into six figures, well into six figures.
“If there’s been offences in managing the company or whatever, ASIC can take action against them to ban them as directors.”
In a social media post made to their now-deleted Samudera Facebook page, the bakehouse said they were closing due to the impact COVID had on their business.
“..due to the massive impact that the current mandates have had and the unknown impacts of COVID in the community, we have made the difficult decision to close both our Mandurah and Perth stores for the time being,” the post said.
“Although this door may be closing, for now, it is not goodbye to Samudera forever.”
In December last year, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced a multimillion-dollar financial support package for businesses directly impacted by the public health rules in Perth and Peel.
Small businesses could apply for grants of up to $12,500 to assist with some of the costs incurred because of public health rules, which included an indoor mask mandate, a dancing ban and seated consumption of food or drink only.
Mr and Mrs Loaring were operating as a partnership at the time and filed for liquidation under the trade name Samudera Artisian Holdings Pty Ltd.
Skeer News understands the couple had plans to open an establishment in the Halls Head/ Dawesville with a trading name of Blue Manner Brewing Co attached to their business details.
Several attempts have been made to contact Nathan and Angela Loaring for comment with all known phone numbers disconnected.
Our contact details were also passed on through a third party. However, they failed to respond.
The Australian Taxation Office wouldn’t specify how much Samudera owed in tax as they can’t comment on individual cases.
The Fair Work Ombudsman would not confirm if their team was investigating Samudera.
In addition, we asked the Australian Securities and Investments Commission if they were investigating, but they failed to respond.
The liquidator is expected to submit a report to ASIC within three to six months.