Sales of hospitality businesses put 'on hold'

Clutha Licensing Trust headquarters Rosebank Lodge, in Balclutha. Last week, the trust announced...
Clutha Licensing Trust headquarters Rosebank Lodge, in Balclutha. Last week, the trust announced it would not be selling its hospitality businesses, as proposed in August. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Staff at Clutha Licensing Trust businesses were given greater certainty about their future last week.

An email sent on November 7 to trust staff and associates by interim operations purchasing manager Wayne Felts announced the trust had backed away, at least temporarily, from its proposal to sell its hospitality businesses.

"I would like to advise that the CLT Board have advised today that the sales process of the CLT properties is on hold for the foreseeable future. It is business as usual and looking forward to build [sic] our business together,'' the message said.

The announcement followed an earlier meeting at which managers of the trust's five hotels and one liquor store were informed of the decision, and of Mr Felts' replacement of former general manager David Kenny, who resigned on November 2.

When asked how the trust had reached its latest decision, Mr Felts was unable to answer.

"I wasn't involved with that process, so that's a question for the board,'' he said.

Asked whether the phrase "for the foreseeable future'' meant the trust might still revisit the proposal to sell, Mr Felts said discussions were "on hold''.

"Never say never. But you can't be certain of anything in life.''

Following the announcement, trust managers and staff wanted simply to focus on the future, he said.

"[The trust] is on its way up again, and our focus now is to lift morale and move forward.''

During a month-long consultation beginning in August, both staff and Clutha residents were invited to provide feedback on the proposal, which, in the light of diminishing commercial returns, would have seen the trust move out of hospitality and become a financial body alone.

At the time, staff criticised a perceived lack of communication from the trust.

Although yesterday's announcement was welcomed by staff, work "repairing bridges'' was likely to be required, an employee of one of its businesses said.

"I believe the board didn't understand how negatively the community would react to this idea. To be honest, it's wasted enough of everybody's time so I think people will just be happy to draw a line under it and move on. But that's probably not much comfort to those who've resigned in the meantime, down to uncertainty.''

They knew of three colleagues who had resigned since August, when the proposal was first raised.

Mr Felts denied there had been any significant impact on staffing as a result of the process.

"Some people may have left for various reasons, but I don't have a firm figure. Good communication is key to any business, and that's something we'll continue to work on.''

Trust president Steve Morris said the board would respond to questions today, after meeting to finalise planning details last night.

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