Bartender Rick Benton is still pulling beers at the Moonee Beach Tavern.
Bartender Rick Benton is still pulling beers at the Moonee Beach Tavern.

It's cheers for now

TWO popular Coffs Coast watering holes have been caught up in the financial troubles of one of NSW's largest hotel groups.

The future of Coffs Harbour's Plantation Hotel and the Moonee Beach Tavern hang in the balance, after National Leisure and Gaming (NLG) entered voluntary administration.

The Planto did not open yesterday, while the Moonee Tavern continued to trade as normal, after news NLG, which operates 35 pubs in NSW and Queensland, is in receivership owing $157 million to creditors.

The hotel giant has confirmed its financial difficulty, saying it has appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as voluntary administrators.

Receivers and managers PPB Advisory said it would work with stakeholders to ensure the group's hotel and gaming venues continued to be successful.

However, the decision was made yesterday to close three of the group's pubs, including the Plantation Hotel, the Swell Tavern at Burleigh Heads and the Wynnum Point Hotel.

"The interests of staff at the three venues are a key priority and employment opportunities within the group have been identified and offered where possible," PPB Advisory partner Stephen Longley said.

"Employees who have accepted redundancies will have all entitlements met in full and expedited payments will be made this week.

"PPB Advisory has been in discussions with the landlords of the three affected venues and licenses will revert back to their ownership."

Local venue managers have been unable to comment since NLG issued a press statement.

The company said the decision to appoint voluntary administrators followed discussions with senior creditors Goldman Sachs (Asia) Finance, York Global Finance Holdings and Varde Investment Partners.

The trio elected not to extend senior facilities due to expire on January 31, 2012, NLG said in the statement.

"These appointments reflect NLG's inability to be able to effect a solution to address the long-term structural issues associated with onerous leases at certain venues," the NLG statement said.

Metropolitan media reported the hotel group had been in dire straits for the past two years, saddled by massive debts and falling revenues.

Its 1000 poker machines earned $90 million in revenue in the 2011 financial year, making it one of the largest owners of hotel pokies in NSW.

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