Pub empire faces more uncertainty
QUEENSLAND food and drink empire Mantle Group Hospitality is facing further uncertainty over its future as COVID-19 adds to the popular Pig 'N' Whistle pub chain's problems.
Company auditors have for the second time flagged a "material uncertainty" over the hospitality group's ability to continue operating after coronavirus restrictions forced venue closures and amid concerns about its debt levels.
That was coupled with concerns about its reliance during the recovery on new financial backers following two years' of financial losses.
Mantle Group venues include Jimmy's on the Mall, South Bank's The Charming Squire, a restaurant at Mt Coot-tha, several Asian food eateries and two interstate venues.
Run by millionaire Brisbane hospitality baron Godfrey Mantle, the company is also fending off allegations by former staff of underpayments following a series of reports by The Sunday Mail.
Former staff on temporary 457 working visas allege they were instructed to falsify timesheets to hide excessive overtime that in some cases pushed their wage below the award base rate of pay.
Class action employment specialist Adero Law is assessing claims of unpaid entitlements by workers at Mantle Group venues.
It is not suggested Mr Mantle was personally involved in the alleged underpayments and Mantle Group, via a spokesman, said it "strongly refutes any allegations of underpayment."
Mantle Group's annual financial report for 2018-2019 shows COVID-19 trade restrictions that closed its venues in March hit at a critical time as it worked to recover from funding issues that saw it breach loan agreements that same financial year.
It triggered company auditors to issue a warning about its uncertain financial position in December, but Mantle Group later secured an $85 million line of credit from OCP Asia. But auditors Pricewaterhouse Coopers warned for a second time in April that a "material uncertainty" remained.
A Mantle Group spokesman said its venues reopened last month and referred to its annual report stating that Mr Mantle "expects that the company will continue as a going concern."
Originally published as Brisbane pub empire faces more uncertainty