Tony Bilson’s Berowra Waters plan irks creditors

Tony_Bilson_Berowra_Waters_Inn

Tony Bilson’s Berowra Waters Inn comeback has irked some in the restaurant industry

Tony Bilson’s plan to open a restaurant at Berowra Waters has irked creditors, including ex-staff who claim they are still owed superannuation from his last businesses.

The restaurant Bilson’s and Number one Wine Bar & Bistro were put into liquidation in October 2011, after Bilson was hit with an unexpected $500,000 payroll tax liability.

He plans to reopen Berowra Waters Inn on the Hawkesbury River — an iconic restaurant he ran with his former wife Gay in the 1980s — which chef/restauranteur Dietmar Sawyere closed in June.

“Renovations have started at Berowra. We are looking at wines for the list with our friends from Tyrrells, Hope Estate, Harkham’s, O’Leary Walker, Philip Shaw, Andrew Guard, and samples arriving from France asap. Key staff on board! Steve Adey at Darling Mills is planting special vegetables for us. The momentum is un-stoppable,” Bilson says on his Facebook page.

But his plans have drawn scathing criticism from creditors and others in the restaurant industry. Read the full report here.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Tony Bilson’s Berowra Waters plan irks creditors

  1. Nice writing on a very ticklish issue thanks Rachel. I can certainly see how the news of yet another venture might leave a very bad taste in the mouths of those who are owed money. I think the laws around administration and receivership probably could do with a little tweaking.

  2. Thanks Amanda. It’s a touchy subject. Chefs whose businesses go into liquidation lose a great deal – both financial and reputational loss – but there are others caught in the chain too, including employees and providers. Nobody really wins in this situation. Chefs who have businesses that fold shouldn’t be expected to sit on the sidelines for the rest of their career. But if you can’t manage a business, should you be in business?

  3. This is a dam dificult situation… on the one hand Tony Bilson is right, he has no powers in his previous businesses or their wind up, that said, it could also be argued that if he did not know about the debts, then he was running a poor business. I agree with above…, it is important that we do see the laws tightened.

    • Exactly. Once your business goes into administration you have no say in what happens to it. And creditors did vote that the businesses be wound up. But does that mean that a chef’s conscience should be clear and responsibilities forgotten about? Maybe it shouldn’t be quite so easy to jump back into business.

  4. thank you for an educational post! i don’t know anything about the business of restaurants, and found all the sides of the argument (including those of your commenters here) fascinating. i must admit i’d fall on the side of the unpaid worekrs and creditors. he really did seem blase about their plight.

  5. Yes, i expect many of us would put ourselves in the shoes of the unpaid employee, or creditor. When you work hard you’d like to be paid for it. I’m sure the owner/chefs who go bust feel the same way, but they also have a responsibility to the people they employ.

  6. Well written piece on a tricky subject. It does seem like there is a lot more to being a chef than simply being a great cook. The word chef means leader… and a good business leader must think of all of those who work for him or her. I’m not saying that Tony Bilson shouldn’t go on to redeem himself professionally. I just hope he learned a bit more about how to be a leader and he applies that knowledge to his next venture.

  7. Tony Bilson

    I might say that anyone who thinks I am blase about the plight of employees and creditors does not know me very well. I did my utmost to lessen the impact on everyone. That said, former (senior) employees are working with me on the new ventures.
    It is of course true that I won’t get caught in the trap of payroll tax embracing the total payroll of all companies in which one is a director (or which share a common director). I don’t think that I am avoiding responsibility by pointing out that the liability had accrued over six years without my being aware of or being informed of that liability. I could not pursue those whom I thought had professional liability for their advice, that is a decision of the administrators.
    I am wiser now, not richer.
    Compared to the liabilities of others in the same situation ours was, I think, the smallest. To pay the $500,000 in the time given was simply impossible.
    Of course the responsibilty is ultimately mine and it has cost me dearly at an age when I should be basking in the glow of last year’s positive achievements.
    However, over the years that I have been in restaurants I have helped the careers of many and helped build the reputation of many suppliers and wine makers. I am determined that the new initiatives will be positive for all those
    involved. Thankfully many are supporting me and understand the circumstances of the liquidation.
    Thanks to the many friends and customers for their support.

    • Good on you for getting involved in the discussion, Tony.
      It’s a complex and emotive issue and as i’ve said in a number of my comments above, no-one comes out a winner in these situations. Chefs lose their livelihoods and hard-earned cash, and employees and suppliers also lose the latter.
      You say you’ve come out the other side wiser, which may be of some consolation to those who were burnt by the closure of your restaurants.
      Good luck with your new venture.
      And for anyone who’d like to know more about Tony’s contribution to the industry and personal careers of many, i’d encourage you to read his memoir, a review of which can be found here – http://thefoodsage.com.au/2011/10/03/bilson-from-bo-ho-to-culinary-boffin/#comments

  8. Interesting article! All the financial stuff aside, I am just plain excited to see Tony Bilson open up BWI again. I’ve been to BWI, Bilsons and Number One Wine Bar and was crushed to hear that they all closed down so this couldn’t be more welcome news! I will be there with bells on when it reopens – go Tony!!!

    • Berowra Waters Inn certainly is a stunning restaurant and set in such a beautiful part of NSW. It’s good to hear that it won’t remain closed for too long. Tony will be glad of your support. Thanks for dropping by.

  9. jennifer blaxland

    Well it didn’t take long for BW to bite the dust did it? RIP. And what happened to Scott Wilson and the Bilson @ home enterprise ? I’ve never seen anyone given so many chances to bugger it up. How about a Koolaide stand!? It’s important to stick with what one’s good at.

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