A TAMWORTH businessman is set to take the local council to court after the shock closure of his thriving burger bar.
Williamsburg director Luke Fielding has filed a statement of claim in the NSW Supreme Court against Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) for damages after he was forced to close his Brisbane Street business in November.
Tamworth Regional Council was contacted for comment but declined to respond.
"Tamworth Regional Council has no comment on this matter," a spokesperson said.
Mr Fielding told the Leader he had to let go of long-term staff, and was now facing extreme financial pressures since the business was forced to close due to structural issues.
"The business has gone from an asset to nothing," he said.
The Tamworth business owner will allege in court TRC did not notify him of a white ant problem in the flooring of the heritage listed building before he signed a lease on July 1, 2016, or during the lease period.
Mr Fielding claims the council knew about the structural issues, or should reasonably ought to have known, since 1993 when they were notified by a maintenance worker that the entire floor needed to be replaced to prevent further damage.
It's alleged at the time they became aware of the issue the council did not proceed with the recommended floor replacement due to budget constraints.
After entering into the lease agreement, Mr Fielding said he started to notice the floor dropping in certain parts of the restaurant, which he claims the council said was due to weather conditions.
Since the burger bar opened a number of "patch-up jobs" have also been carried out on the floor.
Mr Fielding said the council installed new skirting boards to hide the gap between the floor and the wall, but were again notified of the issue around December, 2022, when a customer stepped through the floor.
A few months later, in April 2023, Mr Fielding claims the council told him the floor would need to be replaced, and the business would need to vacate the premises for an indeterminate period.
Mr Fielding was served a letter to vacate the premises and announced the closure of the restaurant in October.
Mr Fielding has filed a claim against the council for an alleged breach of lease; misleading and deceptive conduct; and negligence.
The Leader understands the claim for damages could be multi-millions of dollars if the allegations are proven in court.
Mr Fielding claims council staff promised to relocate the burger business during private meetings in 2022, but during a six-hour mediation in November he was told the council would not be assisting them to open at a new location.
He said during the mediation the council promised not to charge the business rent during the vacate period, and to rip out their equipment, store it, and put it back in once the repairs were complete.
But Mr Fielding said he was told the repair works had not yet been put out for tender, and there was no date for when the floor remediation would start, or finish.
Mr Fielding told the Leader he felt hurt, frustrated and heartbroken, after investing thousands of dollars into turning the abandoned council-owned building into a booming business for both him and the city.
"We've been left high and dry," he said.
After entering into the lease agreement, Mr Fielding spent more than $800,000 to make the 'Old Mechanics Institute', which was built in 1886, fit to house the restaurant.
He claims TRC made no contribution to the associated costs.
"We've turned this into an asset for them, then we've been told to get out," Mr Fielding said.
In court, Mr Fielding will claim TRC breached the retail lease by not ensuring the premises was in a structurally sound condition, or in good condition and serviceable repair for the restaurant to operate.
Mr Fielding claims council's silence, and or omission, about the white ant problem is said to make a case for misleading and deceptive conduct.
Mr Fielding said had he known about the alleged white ant issue, he would not have completed the restoration works or entered into the lease agreement.
Mr Fielding also claims council acted negligently by breaching its duty of care to prevent reasonably foreseeable losses and damages.
Mr Fielding will claim in court the council failed to disclose and rectify the structural issues affecting the building.
The council is yet to file its defence in the matter.
The matter is set to go before the NSW Supreme Court in February 2024.