It was a dispute over four weeks’ rent. But somehow, the row between the Game Fishing Club and its food vendor spiralled out of control.
Yesterday, police were called in to evict Upoko Nelio after she refused to vacate the premises.
Nelio had been running Kai Moana takeaways. She insisted she had made arrangements to pay off about $800 in rent and electricity arrears – but the fishing club had had enough.
Vice-president Donald Beer said the club had waived her first month’s rent to give her a foot up; they were very disappointed that the club’s generosity and goodwill had been thrown back in its face.
“The point is that Upoko had no legal right to be on the property today, she refused to move and thus the police were called,” Beer said.
Nelio said there was no communication between her and the committee.
“It’s so unfair, I was never included in their meeting. I couldn’t explain things for myself, I’m a new business and they are expecting me to come up with the money right away.”
She said she has been willing to negotiate to pay off her rent this week.
It all started with Nelio’s proposal for a food truck to be located at the Fishing Club. That fell through so, instead, she approached the club for the use of the downstairs bar and veranda areas.
The club allowed her to occupy the premises before terms of a formal tenancy had been agreed and signed upon, Beer acknowledged.
She moved in on May 4 and the club agreed to a free rent period for the duration of May, to get her started.
On May 25, the Club wrote to Nelio setting rental of $200 per week plus VAT, of which $100 was for power. “She rejected these terms as unaffordable and asked the club to reconsider,” Beer said.
The executive committee was unable to negotiate any further, he said, and decided to give notice to Nelio to vacate by June 26.
“As Upoko refused to vacate the premises, the police were called and a trespass notice was issued to her to stay off the club’s property,” said Beer.
“Upoko’s use of the club power has resulted in a doubling of the club’s electricity bill. While she has paid a small proportion of this, the club is having to pick up most of the cost of her electricity usage to the detriment of all members.”
Furthermore, there were complaints about Nelio’s staff and associates drinking after hours, which he feared would jeopardise the club’s liquor licence.
Nelio dug her heels in and refused to leave. She had printed copies of a payment plan to pay off the outstanding power bill by the end of the week, but says they ignored it.
“I’m a young local entrepreneur, I’ve just started and they are a local business to and from what I hear the Fishing Club is one of the wealthiest clubs on the island,” said Nelio.
“I love this bar, it’s a local bar and I run this business for the local people.”