Bankrupt owner of Stepping Stone apologises to creditors for $236,000 debt

CLOSED: The former site of Stepping Stone restaurant. Photo: PHIL BLATCH 0904pbanson3
CLOSED: The former site of Stepping Stone restaurant. Photo: PHIL BLATCH 0904pbanson3

The bankrupt owner of the failed Orange restaurant Stepping Stone has apologised for leaving creditors with debts totalling $236,974.

Tom Grasso closed the Anson Street restaurant in May as the debts mounted and was declared bankrupt on June 27.

Orange wineries, suppliers, caterers, a public relations company, Orange City Council, banks and the taxation office have all been hit by Mr Grasso’s inability to pay his debts.

The debts range from $50,000 owed to Edwena Mitchell to $68 to Small Acres Cyder.

Mr Grasso is now working as a chef in Bathurst.

He told the Central Western Daily on Monday he did not have any assets and could not offer a payment plan to pay his debts.

“I am sorry, it’s not the best answer, but we don’t have any assets to liquidate,” he said.

“If I had a house to sell we could do something but I don’t.”

Mr Grasso said they did not get enough customers to succeed and despite attempts to cut prices and costs it became unviable.

“We were seen as an occasional restaurant,” he said.

“We didn’t want to do that. We wanted people to come to the restaurant every week if they wanted.

“We always had good feedback.”

Mr Grasso apologised to creditors saying he tried to continue trading and meet his bills.

SORRY: Chef Tom Grasso.

SORRY: Chef Tom Grasso.

“I thought we could trade out of it,” he said.

“It just kind of spiralled out of control.”

However, he said in May it become impossible to continue and came to the decision to close the doors within 72 hours.

Mr Grasso said he had been shocked by the events and had suffered “emotionally and mentally.”

He said the restaurant scene in Orange was changing to more casual dining.

Orange companies affected include Manning PR which is owed $4247.

Co-owner/director Holly Manning said it was an “expensive lesson”.

“It's really disappointing that this sort of thing happens in Orange,” she said.

"Our business is based on supporting Central West small businesses, which we endeavour to help as much as we can, it's not up to us to run their business.

“It's disappointing when they can't continue and leave people in the lurch.

“We've learned from the experience and changed our practices so we can focus on our other clients.”

She said professional help was available.

CLOSED: The former site of Stepping Stone restaurant.

CLOSED: The former site of Stepping Stone restaurant.

“We've got some good support systems in town that offer support and advice. It's worth reaching out to services like Central NSW Business HQ and the Orange Business Chamber.”

Swinging Bridge Wines owner Tom Ward said after working in hospitality in Sydney, he was “used to it” and he was not expecting to get anything back.

“Business is hard, it's a lesson for newcomers, you need to have enough equity to invest in it,” he said.

“I feel really sorry for Tom's staff and suppliers hit with more money owing, there's a lot more guys who are a lot worse than we are.”

Bloodwood Wines owner Stephen Doyle said small business in Australia was constrained when dealing with larger businesses and in bankruptcy issues.

“It's very disappointing and not the way we'd choose to conduct ourselves.

“It's not unusual with small business.”

Council spokesman Nick Redmond said council made every effort to recover funds owed to the council.

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