A LAVINGTON roadhouse closed its doors last night in mysterious circumstances, leaving seven staff out of work and customers who turned up for their regular meal searching for answers.
The Rim and Wheel Diner, owned by Coles Express and sub-leased to Albury husband-and-wife Ian and Dianne Andrews, had been part of the Shell service station on Wagga Road.
Mrs Andrews said last night their lease ran to June 30 but property heads had ended it early, telling them on Friday they were to close by 9am today.
Mrs Andrews said Coles Express representatives had given the couple “reasons that weren’t very clear” for closing and reasons she could not expand on.
“This is not only our employees’ livelihood, it’s our livelihood and that puts us in an uncertain position,” she said.
“We took it on four years ago. We bought it up from something that was very run-down and we got the customers back. That was thanks to the employees who worked there as well.”
At least four diner employees turned up at their old workplace last night as a protest against the closure.
They said Mr and Mrs Andrews owed them thousands of dollars in unpaid superannuation, leave payments and wages and they were given no warning about the closure.
“I actually loved my job, that’s the saddest part of it, I loved my job,” said employee of eight years Jan Lindner.
“I made lots and lots of friends there.”
Two of her customers, truck drivers Glenn Hall and Ash Brown, pulled up at their regular stop last night to find it closed.
“It was the best place to eat with the friendliest people,” Mr Hall said.
“They were always full of customers, all of the blokes were there.”
Mr Brown said it seemed to be a trend across the country that old-style roadhouses were being taken over by the big takeaway chains such as McDonald’s, KFC and Hungry Jack’s.
“Roadhouses are going down,” Mr Brown said.
“Go in any direction — it’s all the same.
“It’s all shutting down.”
Leonie Steain, who left the diner mid-year, has complained to Fair Work Australia that she had not been fully paid for superannuation and leave.
Ms Lindner said she will also lodge a complaint.
Mrs Andrews said she could not comment on the claims with proceedings in place.
And she also said she could not comment on a second pending Fair Work case against her and her husband in relation to the now-defunct Thurgoona Takeaway.
Three former takeaway shop staff lodged a complaint with Fair Work Australia that they were underpaid more than $60,000.
One of those staff members, Maree Garratt, last night joined the group at the Lavington roadhouse.
The case is before the Federal Court in Sydney and Ms Garratt said another hearing would be held on March 21.