Gallagher restaurant firms to be wound up

 

THE HIGH Court has ordered companies behind two of chef Conrad Gallagher’s restaurants in Dublin and Sligo to be wound up after they failed to satisfy demands for unpaid taxes of more than €160,000.

The order, made at the request of the Revenue yesterday, covers Boutique Restaurants Concepts Ltd, the company that ran Salon des Saveurs on Aungier Street, Dublin, and Super Potato, which was behind Conrad’s Kitchen in Sligo.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy made the orders on the grounds that both companies were insolvent and unable to pay their debts.

Ian Lawlor, of JPA Brenson Lawlor Ltd, was appointed liquidator to both firms, which have registered addresses at Aungier Street, Dublin.

Mr Gallagher is not a director of either company, which are in the names of his wife, Candice, and his mother, Evelyn.

The legal team acting for the companies had asked the court for an adjournment to allow time to see if external funding could be obtained in order to satisfy the debt. Revenue opposed the adjournment application as “devoid of merit”.

Ms Justice Laffoy asked whether “a bird in the hand was not worth two in the bush to Revenue”, but Mark O’Mahoney, for the Revenue, said he suspected “there was no bird at all”.

He said no concrete offer had been made to settle the debt since the demands were made and nothing had been on paper to show the companies would be able to secure external funding.

After the ruling Mr Gallagher issued a statement in which he claimed to have worked “aggressively” to try to reach an accommodation with the Revenue to avoid the need for a court hearing.

“It was a surprise and shock that the collector general dealt with this matter in such a heavy-handed, speedy and costly manner, with no opportunity for resolution despite several offers being made by the companies,” the statement said. He recently closed Salon des Saveurs and opened two restaurants on Dublin’s Dawson Street.

The Dining Room and the Tasting Room restaurants are now operating out of La Stampa Hotel in Dublin and are unaffected by yesterday’s court order.

Mr Gallagher is one of Ireland’s most high-profile, highly regarded and controversial chefs and is almost as well known for his financial woes as for his culinary skills.

More than 10 years ago his Dublin restaurant, Peacock Alley, where he won a Michelin star at the age of 25, hit the rocks.

He left Dublin for London and opened a restaurant on the day after the September 11th attacks in the US. It did not last long. From there he moved to New York, where he opened a successful lounge bar called Traffic.

In 2003 he was arrested after not turning up to a Dublin court to face charges connected with his alleged theft of three paintings that had hung in the Fitzwilliam Hotel where Peacock Alley had relocated.

He was extradited but not before suffering two broken ribs after being attacked by a Colombian drug lord in the Brooklyn detention centre. He stood trial in Dublin and was acquitted.

He then moved to South Africa, and ran two restaurants and a consultancy. Five years on, he was declared bankrupt there and ended up owing almost €200,000 to his two main creditors.

Back in Ireland, he opened Salon des Saveurs in early 2010 and then Conrad’s Kitchen in Sligo. Four weeks ago he hit the headlines again after a former employee claimed he had failed to pay him wages of €1,467. A protest was organised but called off after he promised to pay.

In 2003, Mr Gallagher told the Observer newspaper: “I don’t think you need to be a great businessman to run two restaurants. With four or five, it’s completely different. You have to be a genius at business and I am patently not.

“In fact I am, as I know now, simply a terrible businessman.”

A la carte life

1971: Born in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

1990: Begins career in the Blue Street restaurant in New York. Moves to the Plaza and Waldorf Astoria before switching to Monte Carlo to spend a year in Alain Ducasse’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant.

1994: Returns home to head up the kitchen at Morels, Glasthule.

1995: Opens Peacock Alley, first on Baggot Street, then South William Street and finally in the Fitzwilliam Hotel.

1996: Wins first Michelin star at the restaurant aged just 25.

2001: Opens restaurant in London on the day after the September 11th attacks in the US. It is not a success.

2002: Opens Traffic, a Manhattan lounge bar.

2003: Arrested in the US and extradited to Dublin to stand trial over the alleged theft of three paintings from the Fitzwilliam Hotel. He is acquitted.

2004: Moves to South Africa where he runs restaurants and operates a consultancy business.

2009: Declared bankrupt in South Africa.

2010: Opens Salon des Saveurs in Dublin and Conrad’s Kitchen in Sligo.

2011: Opens two restaurants in La Stampa Hotel in Dublin. Within weeks, the High Court winds up the two companies behind his other restaurants.

CONOR POPE