Tai Lam at the new Saigon Saigon in East Street.
Tai Lam at the new Saigon Saigon in East Street.

Lawsuit against Rocky council for lease dispute

A ROCKHAMPTON hospitality business is suing Rockhampton Regional Council for more than $200,000 for loss of business while he had a lease with council for a premises on Quay St.

Director Tai Lam of Mai Tai Pty Ltd, trading as Saigon Saigon by the River Restaurant and Thai Basement Restaurant and Function and Buffet Centre, began proceedings in November 2018.

There have been a series of documents filed on behalf of Mr Lam and Rockhampton Regional Council with reputes to the list of claims.

The lawsuit is mostly related to the Thai Basement Restaurant business, in Customs House on Quay St.

The statement of claim details the lease for the premises started in June 2011 and terminated in June 2016.

It said the lease renewed for a further five years, with a new termination date of June 2021.

In February 2016, Mr Lam allegedly moved his Saigon Saigon business over to Customs House.

At the time of signing the new lease for Customs House, there was allegedly no restricted parking on Quay St and customers were able to enjoy the venue without any construction noise and a peaceful environment.


Customs House, Quay Street, Rockhampton
Customs House, Quay Street, Rockhampton

The statement of claim provided by Mr Lam says he was informed on July 28, 2106, six weeks after he signed the new lease, that council was considering redeveloping the riverbank and would be closing Quay St between Denham St and William St as part of the plans.

Council however reputed he was informed in a newsletter sent out to stakeholders, including himself, on June 3, 2016.

Both parties agree Mr Lam had various communications and meetings with council staff and Mayor Margaret Strelow.

Mr Lam claims he was told the road closure would be for seven months.

He noted to council staff it would have a severe impact on his trading profitability, resulting in loss of income and affecting four full-time and four causal jobs.

He ceased all trading at Customs House in November 2016, stating "it was not financially viable to continue to trade".

The lawsuit claims loss and damages to the business of $182,520.

Another claim for $43,702.30 is to cover experts and accounts reports to estimate the loss of business data.

Another charge of $20,046.24 was added for interest.

The documents state Mr Lam did not receive any compensation from council for "loss or damage suffered or caused by the nuisance and its breach of the lease".

Council has confirmed this.


Tai Lam at the Saigon Saigon by the River restaurant in 2011.
Tai Lam at the Saigon Saigon by the River restaurant in 2011.

The total amount filed for damages for breach of contract is for $226,222.30.

The documents back and forth between the parties argue the details of the claim.

Council's defence includes that the construction did not affect the business' night trade as construction and machinery operation ceased by 5pm each day.

Mr Lam claims he had no parking near the business but council's defence was that additional parking was made available in the Westpac carpark and signage was put up to publicise the business was still operational.

Mr Lam claims the signage was "inadequate and poorly positioned".

Council claimed they erected and maintained pedestrian access to the premises at all times while Mr Lam says the pedestrian access was "dusty, enclosed and obstructed vision of the premises to any pedestrians" and the height and nature of it obstructed the view of the river.

Council claims Mr Lam's decision to cease trading was "caused by the plaintiff's (Mr Lam) own actions by failing to take any or any reasonable action to encourage customers to continue attending the premise through advertising, social media or similar campaigns.

Council also states they do not admit the particulars of loss "on the basis the defendant (Rockhampton Regional Council) has made reasonable inquiries and remains uncertain of the truth or falsity of the allegations and requires further disclosure from the plaintiff."

The lawsuit has been filed in the Brisbane District Court and is ongoing with the last document filed on September 17, 2019.

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