Bitter fight threatens trendy club
A bitter civil war between the partners who own one of Brisbane's trendiest nightclubs threatens the venue, and the fight is not over yet.
The row has spilled into the court room amid allegations one side tried to evict the other by cutting the power to the Fortitude Valley mega-club and change the locks.
The ugly feud between DJ Aydan Sturgess, 37, from Newstead, and veteran hotelier couple Angus, 39, and Leah Cattanach, 36, from New Farm, over the control of successful nightspot X Cargo almost forced the cancellation of up to $200,000 worth of pre-Christmas parties at the club when it has only been reopened for three months, the court heard.
But fortunately the club - which has traded since July 2018 - only closed its doors for a few days early this month before a Supreme Court ruling saw it reopened allowing functions for 1700 people to go ahead.
The dispute at the multistorey bar and nightclub made from shipping containers came to a head on November 30 when it is alleged the Cattanachs arrived at the club with security guards to take possession and told Sturgess' 53 staff to leave.
The court was told the Cattanachs changed the locks to X Cargo and their lawyer told Sturgess that his licence to operate the business was to be terminated.
But in court Sturgess argued he owns the X Cargo business as the Cattanachs agreed to sell to him in March, because it was "financially distressed" including by a $1m debt to kitchen equipment rental company Silverchef.
Sturgess used the closure of the club from March 23 to mid August due to COVID-19 to do $30,000 worth of renovations.
In court the Cattanachs denied they agreed to sell their share to Sturgess, arguing they only agreed to restructure the business but had then been excluded by Sturgess when he tried to "seize exclusive control", and asked they be allowed to trade the business until the dispute is resolved.
Leah Cattanach told the court that Sturgess told staff in November that he would be bankrupting her and her husband, and he had sacked Angus, a nightclub veteran having previous co-owned the GPO and The Met, Fortitude Valley.
She also alleged Sturgess threatened them that he would force the X Cargo companies into liquidation.
"I am unsure of how we will be able to continue to afford to live. Angus and I have two small young children aged eight and three," Mrs Cattanach told the court.
On December 3, in an interlocutory decision, the Supreme Court ordered the Cattanach's to return the keys to the club to Sturgess and banned them from hindering Sturgess from running the club which turns over up to $180,000 a week from its 73 per cent female clientele.
It makes a profit margin of 70 per cent for functions, with top dollar paid for bottle service booths, the court heard.
Jamie Tully, an investor from Canberra, told the court he put $1m into the X Cargo business.
Mr Tully said he did not want the Cattanach's to retain a share in the business after the March sale, because he learned they had been borrowing from friends to buy stock, and the bar had been forced to switch alcohol suppliers due to unpaid bills last year.
Hospitality veteran Russell Wood offered $200,000 funding to the Cattanach's to run the bar on December 3, court documents state.
Speaking outside of court Sturgess' lawyer told The Courier-Mail his clients "main concern was getting staff in and back to work and patrons back in the door."
The Cattanachs lawyer said in a statement: "Angus and Leah Cattanach remain as majority owners and the only directors of the X Cargo venue and its registered lease and will be continuing to vigorously contest the Court proceedings against minority owner, Aydan Sturgess."
The clubs fate is expected to be decided when the case returns to court next year, with Sturgess due to file a claim by January 19.
Originally published as Bitter fight threatens trendy Brisbane club