A popular Wellington restaurant in liquidation has left angry workers without jobs and awaiting thousands of dollars in wages and holiday pay.
Diner Five Boroughs went into voluntary liquidation on January 8, with the owners telling Business Desk it was the "quickest and cleanest" way to switch to a more profitable business model.
A liquidator's reports says the business, whose directors are Bryn Thomas and Elie Assaf, owes $32,400 in staff wages and about $360,000 to IRD.
Several former staff members allege they were given as little as two days' notice, with still no word on what will happen to their pay for work over the holiday period.
Some are planning to take the former directors to court for their lost wages.
One former worker, who asked to remain anonymous because of possible legal action, said he was given four days' notice that he was losing his job.
Staff were called into a meeting on December 27 to be informed the business was moving because of earthquake repairs, but it was only on January 4 that he was told his job was ending.
Another staff meeting was called for January 9, the day after the business officially stopped trading.
"When we arrived there the liquidators were there and a lawyer who told us we were 'probably going to get paid out, when they are able to sell assets from the company, but it is no guarantee'.
"So that's that, we 'might get paid'.
"Then after the meeting we are outside and some staff storm off, clearly furious."
Another former staff member said the $32,400 in lost wages was only spread across 15 employees.
She said the liquidators told them there was little chance of getting the money back.
"They informed us about the debt that had been incurred, and the plan to pay it back.
"When I asked when we could expect our holiday pay he responded, 'well, how long is a piece of string?'
"I then said 'If at all?' and he said 'yes, but we have hope'."
The staffer said the owners only gave her two days' notice she was losing her job, leaving her two days to find other employment.
She said staff had been suspicious for weeks, because they'd noticed lots of letters coming from the IRD, and there had been talk of a big debt.
Many former workers were reluctant to talk on the record, because they are now hunting for new jobs, or considering legal action against Five Boroughs.
But two said they'd been forced to move out of their flats, and back home with their parents, because of the lost wages.
When contacted by the Herald, director Bryn Thomas said they hadn't meant to leave staff out of pocket.
"We did our best to pay everybody out as much as we could, and then left it in the hands of Shephard Dunphy, who took care of the liquidation.
"It's a bit of a shame, they haven't been so forthcoming with the cash as they were with the promises of how quickly everyone would get paid out.
"We basically went ahead with everything on the basis that staff would be taken care of with 8-10 days."
He said now that the liquidation process was under way, staff pay was out of their hands.
Liquidator Shephard Dunphy had not returned calls for comment at the time of publication.