Against the Will of The Gods

Photography: Dillon Vibes

The ANU has terminated the license with the Gods Cafe and Bar in the Arts Centre and withdrawn an offer of space in the pop-up village, despite the license with the cafe’s management extending until at least 2018.

The manager director of the cafe, Jaye Min, said that he felt ‘threatened’ by the approach the university had taken to evict the business from the Arts Centre.

‘The future of Gods on campus is nothing,’ he said.

‘ANU tries their best to force small business to close down.’

A termination notice, dated 4 April and seen by Woroni, says that it will be effective in 90 days and that the ANU ‘demands possession of the premises … from 3 July 2017.’

Min said that the ANU had not responded to emails from his lawyers after negotiations faltered.

Min has written a letter to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt, calling on him to intervene in the negotiation process.

‘I remain hopeful that ANU and I can reach a fair resolution without the need for an escalated legal response, however, I fear this is becoming increasingly inevitable,’ Min wrote on 13 April.

Woroni revealed last month that negotiations between the ANU and the management of the cafe had broken down. At the time, an ANU spokesman said: ‘The ANU is keen to have The Gods Cafe to be part of the pop-up and revitalised Union Court, and continues to work in good faith to that outcome.’

But Min has slammed the negotiation process between his company, Mint International Pty Ltd, and the ANU, accusing the University of ‘ignor[ing] the actual law.’

Min said that he ‘did negotiation for six months in good faith’ but now sees court proceedings with the university as the only likely option.

The ANU’s offer for the Gods to move to the pop-up village during the Union Court redevelopment was ‘ridiculous’, Min said, as the space was smaller, the competition would be more fierce and the rent was higher.

‘It would be a suicide mission to go there,’ he said.

Emails seen by Woroni show that in November 2013, prior to the sale of the Gods Cafe to Mint International Pty Ltd the ANU’s then property and development accountant, Mark Grieb, confirmed a new license would be issued for five years, with an option for a further term of five years.

The license commenced on 25 November 2013, with the first term expiring on 24 November 2018, and the second five year period ending on 24 November 2023.

In a meeting in October 2013 the ANU’s then business manager, Wayne Ford, told the previous owners of the Gods Cafe and Jaye Min, who were negotiating the sale of the business, that there were no plans to demolish the ANU Arts Centre.

Woroni understands those at the meeting saw preliminary plans for the Union Court redevelopment, but were given an especial assurance that the Arts Centre would not be demolished.

Plans to demolish the Arts Centre first emerged in March 2016.

Min has prepared a document he hopes will serve as a real-life case study, which outlines the allegation that the ANU has broken the Leases (Commercial and Retail) Act 2001 by not giving six months notice for the proposed demolition or offering compensation.

However, the contract between the Gods Cafe and the university has a clause allowing the ANU to terminate the contract with 90 days’ notice if the premises are need for ‘higher priority university use’. This clause has been invoked in the termination letter sent to the cafe’s management.

Min bought the business in November 2013 for $470,000 under the proviso that there was a long term lease in place.

The ANU approved a $125,000 renovation to the Gods Cafe premises in December 2015, with ‘no indication’ that the Arts Centre was slated for demolition, Min told Woroni.

In Min’s outline of the situation, he notes that the potential loss from terminating the contract is in the vicinity of $650,000.

The closure of the Gods Cafe and Bar could see between 10 and 15 staff lose their jobs. ‘My first priority will be my staff,’ Min said.

An ANU spokesman said that the University was unable to comment on individual negotiations.

‘The University negotiated in good faith with all vendors and is delighted that many existing campus vendors are moving into the pop-up village, and that we’ll have some new ones as well. We’ll be announcing the full list in coming weeks,’ the spokesman told Woroni.

The smaller Gods Cafe at the Hedley Bull Centre will also face an uncertain future, as the larger kitchen in the Arts Centre premises supplies the smaller cafe with food.

Min said that he was ‘mentally stressed’ by the negotiation process. ‘The feeling of counting down the days kills me,’ he said.

It was ‘like knowing the day you will die’, he said.

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