A bitter legal stoush has erupted between television chef Ben Milbourne and the Devonport City Council over an outstanding utility bill from his former restaurant CharlotteJack and its closure due to financial issues.
Mr Milbourne is seeking damages from the council over the restaurant's failure, saying the council promised him things would happen at Providore Place but did not deliver.
He said the council said it would hold events five days a week and weekend markets, fill all the tenancies, and bring in foot traffic to Providore Place and it did not happen.
His comments follow the council issuing a statement to say it was pursuing an outstanding debt of more than two years concerning CharlotteJack, which Mr Milbourne refuted he owed under the Providore Place head lease arrangement that was in place.
However, the council statement said during the closed session of the November 22 council meeting, the councillors unanimously resolved to continue to pursue an outstanding debt of $12,236 from CharlotteJack Pty Ltd, relating to utility supply charges from 2019.
Acting as the council spokesperson, Deputy Mayor Alison Jarman said in the statement that the debt related to the on charging of power and gas usage incurred by CharlotteJack, soon after opening and prior to the utility charges being transferred into CharlotteJack's name.
"Council has pursued the debt for some time and offered a payment arrangement in 2019, which was accepted; however, payment attempts have been unsuccessful, despite third-party action through the Tasmanian Collection Service.
"Council has sought legal advice to ensure this matter is dealt with in the right way, and it is disappointing this past debt remains outstanding, especially when Providore Place is really starting to gain traction, with all major tenancies occupied on full commercial terms and the popularity of the pavilion for markets and events growing all the time."
The council statement said it was not related to the debt collection matter but confirmed that Mr Milbourne's solicitor recently wrote to the council seeking damages due to the failure of CharlotteJack Pty Ltd.
The council has rejected the damages claim.
Mr Milbourne's wife, Councillor Sally Milbourne, and Devonport Mayor Annette Rockliff both declared an interest and left the closed meeting session before the discussion was held and the subsequent decision.
Mr Milbourne said he disputed the alleged debt concerning CharlotteJack which operated at Providore Place from 2018 until 2020.
He said he had been paying the previous head leaseholder each month and believed it was a matter between that person and the council.
"We had no idea about that debt because our lease was through (the head leaseholder), not through the council," he said.
Mr Milbourne said a month ago, through his lawyer, he sought to talk with the council to sort it out.
"We said we would like to sit down to mediation and were told there would be no mediation," Mr Milbourne said.
Mr Milbourne said his damages claim against the council was based on him being "enticed to come into Providore Place with assurances from the council there would be things put in place".
"That was what we made our business decision on," he said.
"We had a council report to show that there would be 970,000 people come through that space in a year."
Mr Milbourne said his job was to open a good restaurant and film a TV show at the site; both things he said he did.
"We did what we said we would do, and the reason it didn't work is that the council didn't do what they said they would do," Mr Milbourne said.
"It has destroyed my whole career.
"I am that far in debt. I have almost taken my life. I have had to sell two properties."
He said he was not a bad business person and ran other successful businesses.
He said he employed people through his Devonport production company, which was in the process of filming a new season of his national television show Left off The Map.
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