The flashy young owners of a new Sydney restaurant that features a lavish $4 million interior have been accused of not paying staff – for the second time.
Julia Rose Gelonese, 25, and her boyfriend Ussi Monix Da Silva, 27, are already facing action in the Federal Court over allegations they failed to pay staff at their restaurant Upper East Side in Bondi, in Sydney’s east.
The couple were taken to court after an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Fair Work alleged that Upper East Side staff – many of whom were on working holiday or student visas – had been underpaid or in some cases received no payment at all.
The court action is still ongoing.
There are now similar claims from workers at new CBD venue Meu Jardim – where Mr Da Silva boasted about spending $4.1 million on a fit out that includes a firepit and waterfall.
According to ASIC documents Ms Gelonese took over from her boyfriend as director of Upper East Side in 2019, while Mr Da Silva controls Meu Jardim.
But both restaurants share the same registered business address according to ASIC.
Julia Rose Gelonese (pictured) and her boyfriend Uzzi Da Silva have been accused of failing to pay staff on time at two restaurants they control in Sydney
But despite allegedly struggling to pay staff, Ms Gelonese and Mr Da Silva (pictured) somehow had the finances to open up a new venue Meu Jardim – and boasted to media about a $4.1 million fit out that includes a firepit and waterfall
‘I like to create things that shock the system. You’re surrounded by brickwork in the laneway and then you come inside and bang – you’re in a glacier cave,’ Mr Da Silva told Broadsheet earlier this year.
‘We’re changing the mould… when you come in it’s like a futuristic oasis.’
Daily Mail Australia can reveal that within just months of opening, staff at Meu Jardim were chasing management for their wages, with many claiming they are still owed superannuation.
Matteo Pellegrino began working at Meu Jardim in January as the restaurant geared up for its grand opening.
The 28-year-old was hired as a supervisor and was initially impressed by the venue, but his attitude quickly changed when he was not paid on time – forcing him to take out a bank loan just to pay his bills.
‘We found out after we had been employed and had been working with them for a while that they had not been paying people over there at the Bondi venue’, Mr Pellegrino said.
‘By the time it opened we’d already got every single one of our pays late. They kept assuring us that once they were opened, once they had revenue: “We’re going to be fine to pay you”.
‘But even still, weeks after we opened they were paying us late.
‘We were meant to be getting paid weekly but it was really once or twice a month, on different dates, and there was just no consistency to it.
‘I had to borrow money after I blew through my savings. (I had to borrow) from a bank and also from my parents.’
Mr Pellegrino said Ms Gelonese and Mr Da Silva would come into the restaurant on a few occasions each week, but barely engaged with staff.
He said the couple seemed more interested in their lavish ‘Instagram lifestyle’ than they were in running a successful business.
‘I just got the impression that they just wanted to have an Instagram lifestyle and thought that maybe by opening a fancy restaurant they could do that,’ Mr Pellegrino said.
‘There was this guy that they said was a secret investor. He was funding the whole thing essentially, I’m not sure why.’
Matteo Pellegrino began working at Meu Jardim in January and told Daily Mail Australia he was regularly paid late
‘Other (restaurants) are going for rustic looks; we’re changing the mould,’ Mr Da Silva bragged to Broadsheet magazine earlier this year
Intended to look like a glacier, the venue cost $4.1 million to fit out and includes a waterfall and firepit
Other staff members who worked at Meu Jardim had similar experiences.
One man, who did not want to be named, said he was also consistently paid late.
‘The first time I had concerns was when the first payslip didn’t arrive in the first week of March,’ the bar worker said.
‘The funds for payslip one were never actually paid into my nominated bank account until the 16th of March.
‘Pre-COVID, Ussi and Julia both frequented the venue quite often, especially around opening night in February. Ussi was in almost every weekend.
‘Every night Ussi was in, he would ask for rounds of shots, which we were directed to charge to the business.
‘They were definitely living the lavish lifestyle while in the venue. Post-COVID, I never saw Julia at the venue but Ussi still came in fairly regularly.’
A former staff member at the couple’s other restaurant Upper East Side shared text messages showing just how employees were allegedly strung along.
Esty Reyes was told by Ms Gelonese that her wage would be in her bank balance ‘by Friday’ – February 21.
On several occasions in the weeks that followed, the businesswoman claimed she would send Ms Reyes a ‘payslip’ by the end of the day.
But when money had not arrived by March 25 – more than a month later – Ms Gelonese finally admitted there was a problem.
‘Right now there’s no revenue coming in so it’s extremely hard to finalise anything at this present time,’ her text read.
‘As mentioned, I’m waiting for some funds to come in so I can finalise.’
Ms Gelonese next told Ms Reyes the money would be in her bank account by April 6.
But it was not until July – five months after she was first due to be paid – that the bank transaction finally went through.
By this stage COVID-19 restrictions had forced the lockdown of many businesses and left Ms Reyes out of work and out of money.
‘I tried to be patient, but then everything closed and I was trying to survive,’ she said.
‘I offered (for them) to even only pay me half. They finally paid me five months late at which point I was already in Mexico and only after I raised my voice.
‘I just couldn’t believe this situation happened in Australia.’
Esty Reyes, a former employee at Upper East Side, said she was not paid on time
The United Workers Union told Daily Mail Australia the underpayment of staff at the two Sydney venues was concerning
Text exchanges between Ms Gelonese and a former employee show complaints about not being paid began in February and stretched on for months
After complaints by several Upper East Side staff members, the Ombudsman began an investigation and found they had likely breached 11 areas of the restaurant award and two of the national employment standards.
When Ms Gelonese did not meet the Fair Work Ombudsman’s compliance deadline, the case was taken before the Federal Court.
In a statement, Sandra Parker of the Fair Work Ombudsman said that in the wake of major cases of underpayment by celebrity chefs including George Colambaris and Neil Perry, they were ‘cracking down’ on the hospitality industry.
‘Under the Fair Work Act, inspectors can issue a Compliance Notice if they form a belief that an employer has breached certain workplace laws,’ Ms Parker said.
‘Where employers do not comply with our notices, a court can order them to pay penalties in addition to back-paying any affected employees.
‘The Fair Work Ombudsman is cracking down on alleged underpayments in the fast food, restaurant and café sector, particularly when it involves migrant workers.’
Wage theft was last week criminalised in Queensland, which followed Victoria’s lead from earlier this year, however New South Wales is yet to do the same.
Karma Lord, director of Hospo Voice the hospitality arm of the United Workers Union, slammed the restaurant she called an ‘Instagram playground for rich and famous’.
‘What does it say about the NSW hospitality industry that an employer who doesn’t pay its workers at one venue, who has been prosecuted by the Ombudsman for wage theft, can go on to spend millions opening another sumptuous venue?’ she said.
Ms Gelonese took over directorship of Upper East Side from her boyfriend Mr Da Silva (above) with the action taken against them by the Fair Work Ombudsman remaining before the courts
Much like its sister venue in the city, Upper East Side is decked out in style with thousands of fairylights covering the roof
Since opening in 2017 the bar has become popular among reality TV stars such as Sam Frost (back row, second from right)
‘Workers shared with us the horror and anxiety of working in this Instagram playground for the rich and famous, while going months without being paid and having to beg for their wages.’
Ms Gelonese claimed that despite the two businesses sharing a registered address, she was only affiliated with Upper East Side – not Meu Jardim.
Mr Da Silva has been contacted for comment.
Upper East Side had previously been taken to court for running up massive debts of more than $95,000 to businesses who had provided food, alcohol and services.
The businesses pursing the bar included Roxy Jacenko’s prominent PR firm Sweaty Betty, which was owed $10,102.
One outstanding bill from a labour hire company was for $36,745 to JRM Hospitality.
Roxy Jacenko (pictured) and her firm PR Sweaty Betty provided services for Upper East Side worth $10,102
It was understood JRM was engaged by the bar to employ staff after a number of chefs and other staff walked off the job suddenly in mid-2017.
Ms Gelonese has previously told Daily Mail Australia that all payments to her employees at Upper East Side had now been ‘finalised’.
In addition to paying her staff, Ms Gelonese claimed the debts owed to a number of businesses had also been settled.
The pandemic has caused major disruption for many restaurants and bars, with many unable to open and forced to close because of government lockdowns.
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Architect, 32, transforms his home into a lush garden with more than 400 plants
An architect with a penchant for all things green has transformed his city home into a lush ‘rainforest’ after years of collecting rare and unusual plants.
Jason Chongue, from Melbourne, has a stunning greenery collection with more than 400 strong plants that have since become a part of the décor.
With little outdoor space to work with, the 32-year-old interior designer brought his gardening indoors – and has since filled every corner of his home with potted and hanging plants of all shape and sizes.
Architect Jason Chongue (pictured) has a stunning greenery collection that now spans more than 400 strong plants that have all become a part of the décor
‘The last count was over 400 plants indoors and outdoors there is plenty more,’ Jason told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Filling my home with plants was an organic result of not having enough outdoor space to feed my gardening obsession.
‘When you live in a dense urban community, outdoor space comes at a premium, so the answer was gardening indoors. There are so many indoor plants that can thrive in our indoor world.’
His obsession with plants started organically when he helped his parents and grandparents with gardening at a ‘very young age’.
‘I was infatuated with nature and greenery, from plants to pets I was obsessed. I would spend my days in the garden, growing and experimenting with anything I could get my hands on,’ he said.
‘Over the years I’ve explored a range of plant types and species, but the collection has grown and evolved. Some plants I have with me now are from my childhood, whilst others are additions and others have been passed on to me.
‘My obsession with plants comes from my passion for greenery and how plants can make the world of difference in our living spaces.’
He turned his home into an indoor garden after years of collecting rare and unusual plants
Jason’s top five tips to styling a home with plants
1. PLAN WELL: When it comes to curating plants in small spaces it pays to sit down and plan out the overall look you are wanting to achieve. This might include how many plants, where they will go and the style you envisage. This will give you a clear direction when you are sourcing plants and planters.
2. DON’T BE CHARMED BY LOOKS: We all make the mistake of choosing plants purely by how they look. It’s more important to choose plants for your space by the natural lighting conditions they require.
3. KNOW WHO YOU ARE AS A GARDENER: If you are nervous about gardening, then choose plants that are easy to care for and low maintenance. Start with a handful of plants and slowly build up your garden once you get a handle on how to care for your plants.
4. BE YOURSELF. DON’T FALL FOR FADS: We’re fortunate to have so many great creative in our communities. This gives us a great opportunity to have unique planters that have been lovingly designed or made by hand. You don’t have to follow the trends but instead use planters that relate to you.
5. ALWAYS EXPERIMENT: A great gardener always pushes the boundaries of what they grow. You’ll find yourself growing indoor plants to edibles and then to every plant type there is out there. It’s great to try new species and plant types to challenge your skill set into other areas.
His indoor plant sanctuary has brought a source of great joy into his life, allowing him to ‘escape my daily urban life’.
‘Walking into our home is comforting and grounding. It’s become a haven where the air is fresh, and the greenery forms a mental escape,’ Jason explained.
‘When indoor spaces are predominately hard edged and man-made it’s so nice softening these spaces with plants that evolve over time.
‘Through the act of gardening it’s relaxing for me to get my hands into soil or prune my plants on a daily basis. It’s an escape from my daily life.’
And what started as a passion quickly blossomed into a growing business.
His indoor plant sanctuary has brought a source of great joy into his life and allows him to ‘escape my daily urban life’
The 32-year-old interior designer said he has spent years of collecting rare and unusual plants
In August 2016, he co-founded The Plant Society, a ‘plant social network’ for like-minded growers, collectors and gardeners.
‘Having co-founded The Plant Society, plants have definitely changed my life. It’s nice being able to motivate the wider community about the benefits of greenery but also be there to help support them,’ he said.
‘Life can become hectic and gardening allows us to slow down and reflect.’
With hundreds of plants under his roof, Jason said he checks all his greenery every day to ensure they are getting enough light, water and nutrition.
‘On a daily basis I spend thirty minutes to an hour gardening in the morning and then I spend an hour or so after work tending to my plants. Once a week I spend a solid block of one to two hours getting more intricate tasks done,’ he said.
When his family and friends visit his home, Jason said they’re always ‘amazed’ with his spectacular indoor garden.
‘It’s always a surprise when you walk through the front door of our home. They are amazed, but also not entirely in shock, as gardening has always been a part of who I am. It’s nice seeing how happy they are when they come over,’ he said.
His obsession with plants started organically when he helped his parents and grandparents with gardening at a ‘very young age’
What started as a passion quickly blossomed into a growing business. In August 2016, he co-founded The Plant Society , a ‘plant social network’ for like-minded people
With hundreds of plants under his roof, Jason said he checks all his greenery every day to ensure they are getting enough water and light
For first time planters, Jason said there are five basic things to keep in mind when buying plants for your home.
‘Focus on the fundamentals. Plants are alive. They thrive off the fundamentals of water, light and nutrition. Keep on top of these to allow your plants to thrive,’ he said.
‘Take it slow. There is no rush when it comes to gardening. Don’t force instant results. The plant world is on a journey of its own so make sure to slow down and enjoy the process of gardening.
‘Plants don’t thrive off neglect. Check in on your plants regularly, my tip is every week or two. You want to nurture your plants and also catch any plant problems early.
‘When you have plant problems, don’t panic. Try to systematically pin point the problem and this will provide you with the solution. Like humans, plant illness and diseases will take time to resolve. Keep treating until the problem has disappeared.
‘And speak up. From when I first began gardening and even now I’m always asking for advice. With a multitude of plant types, you’ll always need help from family, friends, neighbors and online plant friends.’
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Bachelor Matty ‘J’ Johnson to give evidence to police after breaking up a fight
The Bachelor’s Matthew ‘Matty J’ Johnson and Laura Byrne recently returned from a family holiday in Byron Bay with their one-year-old daughter Marlie Mae.
And on Saturday, Matty revealed that their final day in the NSW coastal town ended in a very dramatic fashion.
On Nova’s Matt, Sarah and Matty J show, the 33-year-old explained that he broke up a fight after two young guys tackled an elderly couple.
Hero move: On Nova’s Matt, Sarah and Matty J show, Matty J (pictured) explained that he broke up a fight after two young guys tackled an elderly couple
‘I’m looking around, the park is really busy, everyone is frozen and shocked,’ he said.
‘I dropped my phone and start running full pelt, running, there is not a thought in my mind, I just know I have to save this couple. I tackled the guy, I bring him to the ground…I had him pinned to the ground.’
He continued: ‘Next thing I’ve got one guy pinned to the ground, I’m holding another one back and everyone’s come over, the police have arrived.’
To the rescue: Thankfully the radio host came out of the skirmish unharmed, however he did reveal that he will have to give evidence to the police
Thankfully the radio host came out of the skirmish unharmed, however he did reveal that he will ‘have to give evidence to the police’.
On Thursday, Matty and his wife Laura announced that they are expecting their second child together.
‘Marlie-Mae learning shocked face couldn’t have been timed any better.. WE’RE HAVING A BABY!’ Matty, 32, wrote alongside a family photo on Instagram.
‘Please brace yourself for twice the amount of dad jokes,’ he added.
Incoming! The Bachelor’s Matthew Johnson and Laura Byrne announced they’re expecting their second child together on Thursday. Pictured with daughter Marlie-Mae Rose
‘I reckon we’ve kept this little beach ball under wraps for long enough….. Halfway to number 2,’ Laura, 31, wrote in a separate post shared to her own account.
‘A big shout out to @matthewdavidjohnson for his contribution,’ she cheekily added.
‘You’re hands down my favourite Bachelor, I love you forever and our little family.’
Exciting: ‘I reckon we’ve kept this little beach ball under wraps for long enough….. Halfway to number 2,’ Laura, 31, wrote in a separate post shared to her own account
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Students at one of Sydney’s most elite school’s boast about their luxury facilities
Students at one of Sydney’s most exclusive private schools have shared videos boasting about a luxury ‘$50million gym and library with a harbour view’.
Sydney Church of England Grammar School, also known as the Shore School, sits in Sydney’s North Shore.
Students recently uploaded a video to TikTok as part of a viral trend showing off the school’s facilities.
The video, which has since been taken down, showed students looking out at views of the Harbour Bridge from the comfort of their library.
Students recently uploaded a video to TikTok as part of a viral trend showing off the school’s facilities
Sydney Church of England Grammar School, also known as the Shore School, sits in Sydney’s North Shore
The video also showed the school’s gym, which includes treadmills, stationary cycling bikes and weight-lifting facilities.
The $33,000-a-year school sits on a eight-hectare block and features classrooms, lecture theatres and a 500-seat auditorium, according to the school’s website.
There are cricket nets, as well as tennis and basketball courts, two squash courts and a 25-metre swimming pool and diving facilities.
There are also boarding facilities and a chapel on campus as well.
There are other incredible facilities at the $33,000-per-year school that weren’t included in the video
The Shore School’s student’s video went viral, with other school children from across the country making similar clips to compare facilities.
However, administration were not impressed with the video posted on TikTok.
A spokesman for the school told the Daily Telegraph the students involved were told to remove the clip as it breached the school’s social media policy.
Students are allowed to use mobile phones on campus, and footage shot inside of the school is also banned from appearing online.
A spokesman for the school told the Daily Telegraph the students involved were told to remove the clip as it breached the school’s social media policy
Those involved were told not to do it again.
David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MLC, called the footage ‘deeply offensive’.
‘Students can see how unfair and unbalanced school funding is,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
‘It’s just extraordinary how most politicians can’t.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Shore School for comment.
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