New bar under fire as owners owe ‘thousands’ to old staff
A bar has come under the microscope of the Fair Work Ombudsman after its recent opening despite its owners reportedly owing "thousands" to former staff at a now-closed venue.
Jungle Bar, dubbed as "Buderim's hottest new venue" opened its doors on Saturday, November 21, about two weeks after Gympie's Southside Alchemy closed "for good".
Ex-employees of the cafe told the Gympie Times they were owed "weeks' worth of wages" and that there had been no explanation behind the closure.
Jungle Bar was opened by former Sunshine Coast tradies Mitch Schultz and Keith Stewart on Burnett St across the road from Buderim Tavern.
Mr Schultz spoke to the Sunshine Coast Daily on Monday and said he would comment when the time was right.
Follow up attempts to contact Mr Schultz on Tuesday morning were unsuccessful.
A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesman said inquiries were being conducted in relation to Alchemy Southside and that the matter was "ongoing".
A former staff member, who asked not to be named in fear they would fail to find further employment in Gympie's small hospitality circles, said it was "bloody unfair".
"The money I am owed is peanuts compared to some," the ex-staff member said.
"I've contacted Fair Work Australia but that will take some time. It could go on for ages.
"The audacity of opening up a new place, without a care in the world, like, where did you get the money?
"It's a slap in the face to all of us."
The former staff member did not expect to see the money repaid.
Another ex-employee said told The Times she was owed at least four weeks' wages.
"Some staff (are) now completely jobless with nothing to their name," the former employee said.
"Some of them are owed four digits worth of pay and are dependent on that to live and pay bills."
A post on Alchemy Southside's Facebook page, which was deleted soon after, said the following: "Yes, we owe suppliers, but not as much as stated and we are in negotiations to reconcile with them.
"Yes, we owe staff but we are currently investigating the incident that has put our customers at risk due to our staff."
The post also stated that staff had been intoxicated and had threatened customers.
"Alchemy tried to bring something new to Gympie, while a lot of you enjoyed it and supported, which we are forever thankful for," it read
" … We have had more than a tough year, as I'm sure most of our loyal customers would agree."
It's understood Alchemy Southside had been open less than 12 months, which meant when the pandemic hit, it did not qualify for stimulus support packages.
The Fair Work Ombudsman spokesman said encouraged workers to contact them directly.
"As this matter is ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further at this time," the spokesman said.
"Workers with concerns about their pay or entitlements are encouraged to contact us directly."