EXCLUSIVE: Club owner blames rich-lister for sudden closure
CONTROVERSIAL Hervey Bay businessman Chris Krieger claims one of Australia's richest men should have been more patient with him before terminating his Esplanade lease for nightclub, SmokeNLeather.
This is despite admitting he overcapitalised and failed to pay his rent.
The printing company chief's foray into the nightclub and accommodation industries ended abruptly last week when his Esplanade lease was terminated by the landlord - Gold Coast-based millionaire Rodney Longhurst.
Mr Krieger, who together with his partner Emma Van Der Pluym runs the Chameleon Group, set up The Hub two years ago on the Torquay block which had been owned by Mr Longhurst's company Everest Holdings Pty Ltd since the '90s.
The existing nightclub space became the club SmokeNLeather, the surrounding budget accommodation re-branded The Hub Hervey Bay and the former tour bookings office earmarked for a late-night cafe.
But last week Hervey Bay's only nightclub was suddenly closed, staff were sent text messages saying they were no longer required and The Hub's short and long-term tenants were told they had until the end of the Easter long weekend to move out.
Stopped by the Chronicle on Thursday while changing a flat tyre, Mr Krieger, who was in the company of former SmokeNLeather manager Shaun Leather, insisted he had no choice but to breach his lease.
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When first questioned, Mr Krieger said "just talk to Rodney Longhurst about it ... I have nothing to say," but then went on to admit he had "over-capitalised", pouring hundreds of thousands into council applications and related fees, electrical fit-outs and other improvements to bring the ageing buildings up to scratch.
Significant money was said to have been spent on the town-planning process as the on-site accommodation had been vacant for more than four years.
"There were subsidies in regards to rent and what we spent on the property but we over double spent on that, and that put pressures on rent," Mr Krieger said
"We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars but the council put that on us and Rodney said 'that's your problem, you fix it,' so we had already spent so much money.
"It delayed our opening by six months and also put on a s***-load of extra expenses that we weren't expecting.
"That is pretty much what put us behind in rent."
A property search revealed Everest Holdings Pty Ltd bought the beachfront property, then known as The Reef Motel, in 1999 for $1.3million.
Its director is Mr Longhurst, a high-profile property developer whose father John helped oversee the building of Dreamworld, and who now heads luxury boat company Riviera.
The nightclub on the Torquay site has had various owners and names since it was first opened as Dollys, including Moroccos and Viper.
It was operating as the latter when restaurateur Richard Olujic sold the nightclub business to Mr Krieger.
The surrounding accommodation had long been out of operation, but the units and vacant bookings office were included in the same lease as the club.
In February last year, Mr Krieger told the Chronicle plans for a new neighbouring cafe called Fixxx were underway.
At the time, Mr Krieger said the cafe was due to open soon but it never eventuated.
On Thursday, he said it was "put on hold because of all the money we had to spend".
Mr Krieger also suggested Mr Longhurst might re-open the nightclub himself.
"We have done all the hard work and fixed up his property that was sitting there dormant for seven years," he said.
"He just wasn't patient enough to wait for the money to come in."
Despite these claims, Mr Krieger said he had no problems with the landlord's decision.
"We got our eviction notice and we left," he said.
Everest Holdings Pty Ltd, on-site staff at The Hub and Mr Longhurst were contacted for comment but a response was not received.