Tradies owed thousands push for eviction
AN up-market Gold Coast restaurant had to put up its coffee machine as security weeks before its opening because it couldn't pay tradies tens of thousands of dollars.
Documents obtained by the Bulletin show the owners of swanky Broadbeach eatery Dragonfly signed a statutory declaration late last year offering the machine for work done by head builder Blake Lockhart.
Mr Lockhart and at least five other tradies are now in talks with the Oasis Shopping Centre to evict the owners of the restaurant.
Mr Lockhart claims he is $70,000 out of pocket. Other tradies say they are owed sums ranging from $10,000 to $30,000.
Dragonfly, which opened last December, is owned by Smith and Son Constellation. Michael Smith and Natasha Bergman, who previously ran the now deregistered Bear Espresso at Robina, are listed as shareholders.
Before that, Mr Smith worked in the kitchen at Palazzo Versace and Sofitel.
Tradies say they have not received a cent for the Dragonfly build, other than a $9000 deposit Mr Lockhart received before he started work.
"There was another builder contracted initially. So I came in. I put a deposit in for $10,000 and they only paid nine, which should have raised red flags straight away," Mr Lockhart said.
"So I went until about $30,000 was owed, that's when I stopped the job.
"I just kept getting told it's coming, it's coming. It's coming from Bali, his mum owns real estate in Bali so it takes a bit of time to come from Bali.
"I have numerous emails from both Michael and Natasha saying they've got a two-year-old son, 'we don't want to be left with nothing, we're going to be left with nothing if you don't get this job done'."
Mr Smith and Ms Bergman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Bulletin tried to contact the couple on their mobile phones, via email, personal and business social media, through relatives and the home address listed with their ABN.
Mr Lockhart and other tradies met with Oasis on March 21 to discuss terminating Dragonfly's tenancy.
In an email to tradies on April 1, Oasis centre manager Rosalind Blandford wrote: "We are in a position to lock them out on the 5th but this is not a good outcome for Oasis with the Games starting on the 4th."
When approached by the Bulletin, Ms Blandford said: "The Oasis cannot comment on the commercial operations of our tenants."
Dragonfly is currently closed due to Oasis doing external work to awnings and seating at the mall. Construction is estimated to be completed mid-June.
Mr Lockhart said the tradies agreed to continue the build at Dragonfly because Oasis had offered the restaurant an incentive payment of $110,000 (plus GST).
Oasis declined to answer questions about whether the incentive had been paid to Smith and Son Constellation.
In December 2017 correspondence, Mr Smith was insisting that the incentive balance had not been received. He also blamed the financial difficulties on the "building not going to plan".
Mr Lockhart told the Bulletin: "We tried to organise with Oasis that the money would be set aside for trades but due to the lease agreement they said it was too difficult.
"Management were telling us Michael had the money but he kept denying it to us and we never saw that either, so that burnt us.
"Once the job was finished we barely heard from Oasis again. They wanted nothing to do with us."
Mr Lockhart said Mr Smith and Ms Bergman told the tradies they had been approached by the Providore Group to open eight stores after the launch of Dragonfly.
"She kept on telling me 'I'm working on the concepts at the moment, you're going to be doing eight of these shops as soon as we're done'.
"A good way to lure trades is by the promise of a lot more work so that sort of kept everyone a little bit hopeful."
When contacted by the Bulletin, the Providore Group said it did not know of the couple nor Dragonfly.
Electrician Steve Herriott, who claims he is owed $10,000 for work at Dragonfly, said he was speaking out to stop other tradies from being put in his situation.
"Being a small-business owner you have to take those risks sometimes, but looking at hindsight we definitely should have pulled away."
Both Mr Lockhart and Mr Herriott have asked for the Queensland Building Construction Commission to step in and better protect tradies.
"It's frustrating because if we hang a door the tiniest bit askew and the client complains, I'd be getting phone calls (from QBCC) straight away.
"So it should be going both ways. It doesn't seem to be going both ways."
A QBCC spokesperson said: "The QBCC is able to help contractors and suppliers if they are owed payment by other QBCC licensees, rather than a private enterprise," and that other matters should be taken up with Fair Trade or the police.