BOOM-ERA restaurateurs Christian and Simon Stokes claimed yesterday at the Employment Appeals Tribunal they were unfairly dismissed by the new owners of their former celebrity haunt The Residence club.
Once regarded as the poster boys of the Celtic Tiger era who ran the exclusive private members’ club on St Stephen’s Green and their former restaurant Bang on Merrion Row, the twin brothers are now seeking compensation for unfair dismissal from the new owners, Molana Ltd.
The company was set up by millionaire businesswoman Olivia Gaynor Long after buying the club from a receiver in 2010.
Counsel for Molana Ltd Paul Fogarty claimed the brothers were hired on a consultancy contract that paid them each €1,000 a week plus €50 in expenses to work as interim managers of the club during a transition period.
However, the brothers will argue that they were hired as employees on a salary that has yet to be disclosed to the tribunal.
The hearing was adjourned to May 15 and 16 following procedural arguments yesterday.
The exclusive restaurant and club once commanded a joining fee of €250 plus an annual subscription fee of €1,600 at the height of the boom after opening in May 2008.
However, the club was seized by the banks and put into receivership in January 2010 by the High Court which refused to extend court protection to Missford Ltd, a holding company set up by the brothers.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly was highly critical of the brothers when it emerged during the hearing that they had not been passing their 58 employees’ tax and PRSI payments to the Revenue Commissioners, to whom they owe €1.2m, and had used the money to subsidise the business. He called it a “form of thieving”.
The brothers also made headlines following another hearing at the High Court in which their former Dublin restaurant Bang went bust with debts of €2.4m.
During the liquidation hearing, it emerged that the brothers ran up a bill of €146,000 on a company credit card as the business faced mounting losses.
The court heard that large sums of company money were used to pay personal bills incurred by Simon Stokes at luxury hotels, restaurants and shops, including the Coral Reef Club in Barbados, Gucci in New York, the Professional Golfers’ Association and Pia Bang Interiors Dublin, which was owned by their mother Pia Bang.
Payments by Christian Stokes totalled €115,891 including to Ashford Castle, the Maroma Resort and Spa, and the Skovshoved Hotel in Denmark.