Restaurant closures send ripples through the community
The fallout from the closure of Arabella’s and My Italian Baby continues with a bride-to-be left adrift and former employees devastated.
The business owners, Tory and Sarah Holland, have yet to respond to Newsport’s requests for comment.
Here we share just a few of the stories of the people who have been left wanting after the restaurants’ sudden closures.
A BRIDE LEFT BEREFT
The closure of Arabella’s has left Natalie Excell and fiancé, Jack Halligan, scrambling to find a new venue for their wedding dinner on 18 April.
The Melbourne-based couple is being forced to change their wedding plans and have been left in the dark by the restaurant owners.
“We went to Arabella’s just after they opened and loved the restaurant,” Ms Excell said.
“We were looking for somewhere to have dinner after the wedding ceremony; we didn’t want a full reception, just wanted to walk from the chapel to a restaurant and have dinner”
The couple booked the restaurant for their post-ceremony dinner in March last year but it wasn’t long before communication started to deteriorate.
“We couldn’t get them to commit to anything in writing,” Ms Excell said.
“But they kept promising us that everything was going to be fantastic so we felt like it was going to be ok.”
It wasn’t until October that Ms Excell was able to get the Hollands to commit to items in writing.
“We were sending emails back and forth about pricing and the menu but then communication just stopped and we didn’t get a response at all.
“We have heard nothing from them since October or November so we kept trying to call but we were getting nothing back."
The Hollands referred Ms Excell to their Marketing Manager, Cerys Parry, however, Ms Parry had traveled to the UK to have a wedding of her own.
By this stage, Ms Excell had sent out wedding invitations and guests had booked their interstate flights.
In a panic with 50 guests flying to Port Douglas from interstate, Ms Excell called My Italian Baby the week before last, hoping to speak with someone who could help her.
“The manager, Zoey, answered and she was fantastic. She got me to forward my email of questions and she said she would chase up Troy and Sarah for me,” Ms Excell said.
It was about a week after that when that Ms Excell saw the Facebook post on the Arabella’s page, which has since been deactivated, saying the restaurant had closed.
“We weren’t surprised,” she said.
“We were disappointed and it is really sad, but I am not surprised given their behaviour over last 12 months, I’m not surprised at all.
“It’s is just lucky that we are within time to find something else, a week before would have been more stressful, but we should have followed our guts and now I feel like I’m starting all over again.”
HOLIDAY PLANS LAID TO WASTE
Former staff members have also begun sharing their experiences of being left in the lurch by the business owners.
Former Marketing Manager, Cerys Parry, said she and her husband, Dan Rolf, are owed holiday pay and superannuation dated to when they began working for the Hollands.
Ms Parry said the last time she heard from Troy or Sarah was in December last year.
“The last time we heard from either of them was one WhatsApp message from Troy at the end of December informing us that our holiday pay is not valid,” she said.
“Unfortunately, it looks like they have changed their contact information as we are unable to contact them but the staff, suppliers, and venue owners deserve to know what happened and if they will get the money owed to them.”
Ms Parry confirmed staff and suppliers were owed money back in December but the Hollands were making false promises about the money.
“We were assured that everything would be ok and that money was coming from overseas to cover all outstanding debt,” she said.
“Honestly, I am utterly devastated. My husband and I left the country to spend Christmas in the UK with our family and to get married.
“Before our wedding we had to chase our weekly wage and we got paid so late it ruined a lot of our plans.
“We are still owed all of our holiday pay, and now both of us are out of work. It is the worst possible way to start our married life.”
Speaking to Paul Makin on Fab FM this morning, Mr Rolf, who also worked for Troy and Sarah, echoed Ms Parry’s devastation.
“Everyone got involved and got brought on through promises, I believed in them and what they were saying to be true, I wanted to be part of a business that would grow and become something special," he said.
“They talked a good game, unfortunately, and I certainly got suckered in by it.
“I don’t think anyone could leave like this, I didn’t think it was possible people could do that. I think they are scum.”
A TRAIL OF BROKEN PROMISES
Jenna Mathers worked for the Hollands at Arabella’s and My Italian Baby and was promised hours and pay that were never delivered.
“They promised me lots of hours so I quit my other job for them,” she said.
Ms Mathers went form working full time hours to as little as nine hours a week in the matter of just a few months.
“When I started working for them in May or June, it was awesome, we were a good team and we were all close,” she said.
“We all kind of worked with synergy, got on well, and were all friends outside of work but the longer it went on, it slowly started going down hill.”
It started with staff asking each other if they had been paid and then to Ms Mathers’ hours being cut again and again.
Staff began to speculate that there was no money for their pay.
“By the end of me working there, around the middle of November, I was so distraught and distressed at how few hours they were giving me,” she said.
“There was one day I walked into work and just burst into tears, even when I took time off to have surgery, they were still trying to contact me while I was at the hospital.”
Ms Mathers said even after she returned to work following her surgery, things did not improve.
“I wanted to try to get another job but they promised me ‘X’ amount of hours on a contract,” she said.
“I didn’t actually sign a contract at all and they just picked and chose when they wanted to pay me.
“I had had enough so I left about two weeks before it all closed down officially.”
Ms Mathers said she is also owed annual leave and superannuation from her time working across the two restaurants and her trust has been completely eroded.
“I feel really betrayed by them. It sent me into a nervous wreck and I couldn’t function properly.”
It remains unclear if the staff, suppliers, landlords, and others who are owned money will be compensated as investigations by the Fair Work Ombudsman and company liquidators continue.
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