Two publicans from Portlaoise say the other should have been responsible for paying a surplus to an unemployed bartender after recipients changed locks at the bar where he worked and sold them.
The Labor Relations Commission was told that the Welcome Inn on Market Square in Portlaoise, Co Laois was taken over in October 2020 by recipients working for Pepper Finance and Goldman Sachs, who took out a €2.9 million debt secured against the building and another bar across the street.
Barman Alan Dunne, who had worked for more than 15 years at the Welcome Inn prior to the sale, filed suits under the Redundancy Payments Act of 1967 against both Bradpower Ltd, the former Welcome Inn operator, and Donny Norton, the new owner of the inn.
On Wednesday afternoon at the Labor Relations Commission, Mr. Dunn’s attorney James Daly said his client was expecting to receive his surplus from the state social insurance fund in October and November 2020, when he filled out the relevant forms.
“Mr. Don was not advised that there was absolutely any problem with his surplus,” Daly said, but added that his client made inquiries in January 2021 only to inform him that officials were “waiting for documents from Mr. [David] power accountant.
It was then informed that Mr. Power, the director of operating company Brad Power Ltd., was taking the position that the new owner of the pub was responsible for Mr. Don’s surplus, claiming that there had been a transfer of pledges.
Aaron Shearer BL, who appeared on behalf of new owner Donny Norton and his company, Zalzon Ltd, said the recipients had been assigned to the property alone and his client had only purchased the property.
Mr. Dunn provided evidence that he had “no dealings” with Zalzon Ltd, was not aware of the Company and has not been contacted by the Company in connection with any transfer of undertakings.
Mr. Bauer said he and his wife took over the bar in 2005, along with Mr. Dunn’s business.
He said he and the building’s previous owner, Eamonn Brady, then formed the operating company Brad Power Limited in 2007, which then leased the building from Mr. Brady.
Subsequently, he and Mr. Brady, as business partners, secured a €2.9 million loan from KBC for the Welcome Inn and another licensed building across the street, Coppers, by merging a €600,000 loan that Mr. Brady had taken with AIB.
He said they “had difficulties” servicing the loan in 2015 and that KBC subsequently sold it to Goldman Sachs.
Mr Bauer said the recipients were appointed in October 2020 and “locked us out”.
He said they received legal advice to make the staff redundant at this point.
“It turned out that this was wrong advice” – he said – adding that he pulled the surplus “in or around January 2021”.
“Someone is responsible for the redundancy – the guy is out of work. Mr. Dunn has the right to make a decision fairly quickly,” said class officer Peter O’Brien.
Mr Daly said his client “was not a man of enormous potential” and that the costs associated with the three days of hearings in the case, as well as the written submissions, should be considered.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the dismissal officer said he hoped he would not have to recount the matter for a third appointment to administer an “economic case” because he was not entitled to award reimbursement for costs.
“I’ve lost the building, I’m at a great loss here – certainly my right to bring our lawyers and fight our case,” said Mr. Bauer.
Mr O’Brien said he had no alternative if Mr. Power was “to absolutely insist on another hearing”.