Paying creditors top priority after failed Noosa Festival

PAYING creditors rather than trying to revive the failed Noosa International Food and Wine Festival is the main focus of administrator John Cunningham.

Mr Cunningham has been brought in to pick up the financial pieces of Jim Berardo's failed business enterprises.

But Mr Cunningham has told ABC Coast FM's radio host Annie Gaffney that there is a glimmer of hope for the popular Noosa drawcard with inquiries from potential festival backers.

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A creditors meeting, to be held on June 11 at a venue yet to be finalised, will help Mr Cunningham work towards paying off the debts owed after Mr Berardo's flagship restaurant closed its doors last Friday, and the Noosa Food and Wine Events company behind the festival went into administration.

Mr Cunningham said his team had been fielding calls from "local producers wanting to know if they are likely to be paid".

"The director will be potentially liable for a variety of things, but most commonly personal guarantees that he may have given to suppliers," he said.

"Our focus in the main is to identify avenues of recovery because at the end of the day the process is all about maximising the return to creditors."

Mr Cunningham said Mr Berardo's company would never be the operator of the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival "going forward".

"So if it were to happen again down the track then someone else will have to step forward with the capital to do so," he said.

"Given that it is still only early days, but already yesterday we were fielding inquiries from a number of parties who were making some preliminary inquiries as what might be possible in terms of the event going forward."

Mr Cunningham said the festival last year "suffered significant losses" - greater than this year - but he was yet to form a view as the main reasons for that.

"The director (Mr Berardo) has put that down to the poor weather and just the soft economy," he said.

"Attending those sorts of events is very much a discretionary spend in difficult economic times, people just aren't putting their hands in their pockets."

As for Mr Berardo's other eatery in Hastings St, Berardo's Bistro On The Beach: "Our investigation hasn't identified any link in an ownership sense between the company over which we're appointed and that particular restaurant."

Mr Cunningham understood the State Government had provided funding of between $50,000 and $60,000 towards the event and Noosa Council provides assistance in various forms including making available the physical location for the festival.

In the past the Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd had provided around $25,000 in festival funding, which was to be discontinued due to the council de-amalgamation.



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