Nightclubs in trouble: Salary woes after Lamborghini club lasts just one day

The glitzy interior of the Tonino Lamborghini Club at Clarke Quay on its opening night last October (left) and (below) all bare and deserted last month. The club had closed soon after its launch, and is accused of not paying its employees.
The glitzy interior of the Tonino Lamborghini Club at Clarke Quay on its opening night last October (above) and all bare and deserted last month. The club had closed soon after its launch, and is accused of not paying its employees.PHOTOS: AARON TEO
The glitzy interior of the Tonino Lamborghini Club at Clarke Quay on its opening night last October (left) and (below) all bare and deserted last month. The club had closed soon after its launch, and is accused of not paying its employees.
The glitzy interior of the Tonino Lamborghini Club at Clarke Quay on its opening night last October and (above) all bare and deserted last month. The club had closed soon after its launch, and is accused of not paying its employees.PHOTOS: AARON TEO

It was named after the son of the creator of supercar brand Lamborghini and was meant to rev up Singapore's nightlife.

But, the Tonino Lamborghini Club at Clarke Quay came to a screeching halt, lasting all of one day after its opening on Oct 20 last year, which was attended by the younger Mr Lamborghini himself.

Now, it is accused of having failed to pay salaries to its staff.

Former employees from the Tonino Lamborghini Club, its operator TL Landmark Asia, and Pixie Group- which manages the former - say they are owed up to three months of salary. At least 20 are affected. A contractor also said that he is owed about $400,000.

The companies are being investigated for infringements under the Employment Act, a Manpower Ministry spokesman told The Sunday Times. It had issued orders of payment to Pixie Group and TL Landmark Asia, but payment was defaulted.

  • Clubs in trouble

  • CLUB NOVA Last December, nine former workers of the electronic dance music club in Orchard Hotel complained to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) over unpaid wages.

    The former part-time staff of Club Nova said they were each owed wages of up to $2,000. Following an MOM inquiry last December, the workers managed to get their money back.

     CE LA VI

    A former boss of the high-end club at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), Mr Chris Au, was embroiled in several legal suits last August.

    These included trademark infringement and a bounced cheque in a supercar deal. His other companies were also besieged by lawsuits, and his restaurants closed one after the other, which led to suppliers and contractors taking up cases against him regarding outstanding payments.

    The MBS club is now under different management, with L Capital Asia owning a majority stake in it.

    LIFEBRANDZ

    In March 2015, more than 70 employees working at several established nightspots in Clarke Quay lodged complaints to MOM over unpaid wages. The employees said they were employed by Cannery Leisure, Brandz+, Tribeca Leisure and Lux Leisure - companies owned by public-listed group LifeBrandz.

    LifeBrandz said then that it was working with the employees to resolve the salary payment amicably.

The Central Provident Fund Board is also taking enforcement action against the two firms to recover CPF monies owed to former employees.

The employees have pursued other legal options as well. According to court papers seen by The Sunday Times, a writ of summons was issued against the Pixie Group on Feb 6 by three former employees. On Feb 22, State Courts ruled that Pixie Group had to pay the trio a total of $55,886.61.

Another State Court judgment this month ordered TL Landmark to pay another five-figure sum to a group of four former workers.

The plight of Tonino Lamborghini Club comes in the wake of a few similar cases in recent times (see sidebar).

Nightclub veterans say that the industry is volatile.

Mr Godwin Pereira, 42, founder of club Kyo, said that the nightclub business sees "good runs" and tougher times.

Mr Andrew Ing, 49, who was with Zouk from 1993 to 2001, and is now chief operating officer of The Lo & Behold Group, added: "It boils down to the usual stuff when starting a new business: the right funding, working capital, experienced operators and managers.

"All these, plus a good concept will work, and stand the test of time."

It is not clear what led to Tonino Lamborghini Club's current situation.

A former employee in operations said bosses told them there were funding issues. The man, in his 30s, who declined to be named, said he is owed 2 1/2 months of salary.

"We were caught between leaving and going all out to make the opening night a success so we could recoup losses. They explained to us that if we worked until then, the cash would start coming in."

And so, the club opened with Mr Lamborghini, the son of famed auto designer Ferruccio Lamborghini, and two of its directors Victor Hoo and Eugene Tin in attendance.

Mr Adrian Lai, centre manager for landlord Clarke Quay, confirmed that the club had held a private launch on Oct 20, but did not open for business thereafter.

Renovation contractor Aaron Teo, 42, said that he is owed about $400,000 and his company, Mercury Werks, is in debt to its suppliers and subcontractors and owes them about $200,000 because of it.

Added the operations employee, who had left a previous job early last year for the club: "When I first heard about it, it sounded good. The bosses had big plans and franchise rights to expand to many countries, and I thought it was an exciting challenge," he said. "But, after not getting paid, I decided enough is enough."

A Pixie Group announcement on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) last September had stated that after the Singapore club, it intended to open clubs in cities like Shanghai and Bangkok by the end of last year.

The company was registered in 2007 and has four directors - among them are Mr Tin, a Singaporean, and Mr Hoo, a datuk from Malaysia. The latter is also the executive chairman of V Capital, a corporate advisory service firm based in Malaysia.

When contacted, Mr Hoo said that "settlement is under way". At least one Pixie Group employee received a letter dated March 17 offering a pay-off settlement.

Mr Hoo also said that the company was pursuing a A$160 million (S$173 million) acquisition.

According to an ASX announcement on Feb 22, the company had entered a memorandum of understanding to acquire Mineral Bull, a Singapore company in the business of developing zinc and lead reserves in Indonesia.

Correction note: The sidebar has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 19, 2017, with the headline 'Salary woes after Lamborghini club lasts just one day'. Print Edition | Subscribe