Mumbai: Top BKC restaurant shuts without paying salaries

Updated: Jan 17, 2020, 12:26 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Owner cites operational difficulties even as employees struggle to meet monthly expenses

Illuminati shut in December 2019
Illuminati shut in December 2019

Five dozen employees of the high-end lounge-bar-restaurant, Illuminati, at Bandra-Kurla Complex, which downed its shutters on December 18, are still doing the rounds of the head office in Andheri trying to get the management to pay their salaries and service charge (the tip component included in bills by most restaurants) pending since November.

Having not received their salary of two months, several employees living in rented accommodation in Mumbai and Thane are struggling to make ends meet, while the locals are finding it difficult to pay their children's monthly school fees and attending to the needs of their family members. Finally, fed up of being fobbed off for the nth time by AGA Hospitality Private Limited with 'will settle dues in 15 days', they called the police on Monday.

"I have not been able to take my ailing mother to hospital for her routine check-up due to acute shortage of money. I have also not paid my credit card bill," an employee told mid-day requesting anonymity.

After the opening in January 2018, Illuminati was recording a monthly turnover of R35-40 lakh, said another employee, "But, after Illuminati established a long list of patrons, owner Akhilesh Rao invested the money into opening small outlets across Mumbai incurring heavy loss as these small outlets could not yield profit."

"He then shut down the small outlets by October without paying the salary and service charge to the staff. Later, Rao also shut down Illuminati on December 18," he added. Rao had not even given a prior notice to the employees at Illuminati. The staff suspects that Rao did not pay the rental to Inspire BKC where the high-end resto bar and lounge was operational for close to two years.

"On December 18, we reached Inspire BKC but the security guard stopped us at the entrance of the building. We then went to Illuminati's head office, AGA Hospitality Private Limited, in Chakala, Andheri (East), to meet the owner," said another employee. "Rao told us that all the dues will be cleared by December 24 as soon as he gets the fund. Believing what he promised, we returned home," he added. But they did not get their salaries.

Opened in January 2017, Illuminati initially recorded a turnover of  R35-40 lakh but the owner started to incur losses from the small outlets he hurriedly opened across Mumbai
Launched in January 2019, Illuminati initially recorded a turnover of Rs 35-40 lakh but the owner started to incur losses from the small outlets he hurriedly opened across Mumbai

The handful of employees again visited the head office and the owner promised to pay them on December 31. "We had planned to celebrate New Year together but the salary never came. This time we were told to wait till January 2," the employee added. Another employee said "Rao has been testing their patience... every time we meet, he extends the date to pay our dues. We don't knock on his door to beg but it is our hard earned money and he cannot get away with this [not paying us]," the employee added.

When they went to visit him again on January 13, when Rao called them, he said the "funds were still stuck". One of the agitated employees, fed up of making rounds of Rao's office and his false promises, called police control room.

A team of MIDC police reached the spot where Rao, in front of a sub-inspector, Rao assured the employees that their dues will be cleared on January 14. The employees returned home thinking that Rao will keep his promise this time because of the police involvement.

However, they were unfortunately proven wrong. Tired, they again went to the Andheri office and called the police on January 15. The MIDC police this time hauled Illuminati finance head Dinesh Panchal to the police station.

"Rao also rushed to the police station and requested police to give him another 10 days to arrange funds to pay us. We really don't know if he will pay us on January 25," said an employee, adding that they have given a written complaint to the police. A police officer told mid-day that no case has been registered against Rao so far.

Rao told mid-day that he will pay his ex-employees by January 25. "We had to shut Illuminati down due to some operational challenges we were facing, and some renovation work... It's an internal matter. We are going to clear all employees' dues by January 25." He, however, denied being approached by the police and on being urged for further details, he said, "I can't talk more about this at the moment."

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