Luigi Malones outlets to keep trading despite liquidation

A RESTAURANT company with five outlets and around 225 jobs has gone into liquidation, but is aiming to continue trading via its liquidator with the businesses to be offered for sale as going concerns.

Sandquay Restaurants, which operates Luigi Malones in Cork, Limerick and Dublin, as well as Caffe Hi (previously Hamburger Inn) in Wilton and Merchants Quay shopping centres in Cork city, was placed in liquidation this week with a trading deficit likely to be around €2m.

The receiver appointed following a meeting with creditors on Tuesday is Barry Lynch, of PF Lynch & Co, South Terrace, Cork.

“The restaurants have excellent assets, such as the brand names and leases, and my role is to protect the asset value and to offer them for sale. The best option is to have them continue to trade,” said Mr Lynch, who began meeting with the company’s creditors and landlords this week, having established new trading entities for each. He said the staff and creditors were showing huge goodwill towards their survival.

The liquidator suggested the five businesses would be offered for sale to the highest bidders, either individually or in lots, during the coming year.

The long-established, privately owned business, Sandquay Restaurants Ltd, has two directors, Don Jeffery, and Nigel Leeming, who have run successful restaurants in Ireland, Britain and Germany.

Stressing that the aim was to continue to trade out of difficulties and that the businesses had a viable future, Mr Jeffery yesterday said that vouchers would be honoured and he thanked key suppliers, and staff, for their understanding. “There’s been a lot of goodwill shown to us, for which we are extremely grateful.”

The icy weather over the Christmas period had decimated bookings, forcing them to close early on what should have been their busiest holiday nights.

Industry sources say Irish restaurants typically make 50% of their profits during December. Last month was a black one for many bars, restaurants and other traders and retailers.

“It’s been a horrendous time for us. We met with the bank over the Christmas period and decided to do the honourable thing. A liquidator was appointed after we met with creditors this week. We will be working with the liquidator to ensure the businesses have a future.

“The intention is to offer them for sale as going concerns at some future time, down the road,” said Mr Jeffrey, adding that he and Mr Leeming would even possibly try and buy them back from the liquidator.

A separate company, Sandquay Trading, which supplies their five restaurants, is being wound up, with the loss of 15 jobs.

Limerick’s Luigi Malones restaurant had stopped trading recently, but the plan is to re-open the O’Connell St outlet as quickly as possibly, said Mr Jeffrey. Liquidator Mr Lynch met with the landlord of the Limerick business on Wednesday, and with Caffe Hi’s landlord for Merchants Quay yesterday. The Wilton Shopping Centre, owned by investor Joe O’Donovan, is now effectively controlled by NAMA, and discussions on landlords’ consent to assign leases will have to be entered into with NAMA, it is understood.

Luigi Malones started in Dublin’s Temple Bar in the mid- to late-1990s.

It opened on Cork’s Emmet Place in 2000 and in Limerick in 2003. Sandquay also opened a restaurant/gastro-pub called Ruby Jones in Douglas in 2005, spending over €500,000 on a fit-out, but it closed after only a few months trading.

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