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Operators, accountant of Chapel Street bars fined $137k


La La Bar Group’s records were “grossly inadequate” but its director and manager showed no contrition or remorse for its conduct, a judge says.

By Christine Chen 13 minute read

The Federal Circuit Court has fined the individuals behind a Melbourne-based hospitality group and its accounting firm $137,435 for “grossly inadequate” record-keeping and failing to comply with the FWO’s notices. 

The court described the conduct of La La Bar Group and its operators as “deliberate” and without “genuine contrition” or “remorse”.

The court fined Keri Taiaroa, a former director and shareholder of six La La Bar Group companies $41,368 and fined Matthew Sanger, the group’s former general manager, $26,893.


It also fined the group’s accounting firm Nicholas Accounting Management Services $34,020 and director Nicholas Nicolaou $35,154.

Bars operated by La La Bar Group included Jane Doe, Wonderland, Electric Ladyland and Lucky Liquor in the Melbourne suburbs of Prahran and Windsor along Chapel Street.

In 2019, eight companies in the La La Bar Group – J.D. Chapel Nominees, Number 17, Hotel Boogie, The Elwood Lounge, La La Land Australia, Athina Windsor Nominees, M.C. Bar Group and Blue Bar 330 – were the subject of surprise audits by Fair Work inspectors after workers alleged they were underpaid wages and denied workplace entitlements such as penalty rates.

The FWO said its audits found the companies breached the Fair Work Act by failing to make and keep proper records and that they, along with their accounting firm Nicholas Accounting Management Services, ignored “notices to produce” issued by inspectors.

This prompted the FWO to visit the office of Nicholas Accounting Management Services in 2020 to seize records they were required to hand over.

The FWO then launched legal action against one of the group’s companies, J.D. Chapel Nominees, in 2021. Proceedings were stayed when the company went into liquidation in 2022.

After the other seven companies in the La La Bar Group also went under, the FWO sued Mr Taiaroa and Mr Sanger of La Bar Group as well as Nicholas Accounting Management Services and its director Mr Nicolaou.

Federal Circuit Court judge Heather Riley agreed with the FWO’s contention that Mr Taiaroa and Mr Sanger were involved in the record-keeping breaches by La La Bar and in the failure to comply with the FWO’s notices to produce documents.

Additionally, she found Nicholas Accounting Management Services had also failed to comply with the notices and that Mr Nicolaou was “totally involved in the breach”, impacting the FWO’s ability to fulfil its function of investigating workplace conduct and causing “loss or damage”. 

She said the breaches were “deliberate” and La La Bar’s record-keeping was “grossly inadequate”. "Like Mr Taiaroa, there is no evidence that Mr Sanger apologised to the people affected most by the contraventions: the employees,” she said.

“His apology appears to me to be formulaic, and designed to minimise the penalty he might receive rather than a genuine expression of remorse,” she said, noting there was a lack of “genuine contrition” from any of the four respondents. 

She said hefty fines were necessary to deter Mr Taiaroa, Mr Sanger, Nicholas Accounting Management Services, Mr Nicolaou and others from similar future conduct. 

FWO Anna Booth said: “We also urge workers with concerns about their wages and entitlements to reach out to us, including via an anonymous report if they prefer.” 

“Employers need to be aware that breaching record-keeping laws and failing to comply with lawful requests like notices to produce, which were found to be deliberate in this matter, will not be tolerated and risk significant penalties,” she said.

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Christine Chen

Christine Chen


Christine Chen is a graduate journalist at Accountants Daily and Accounting Times, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting sector.

Previously, Christine has written for City Hub, the South Sydney Herald and Honi Soit. She has also produced online content for LegalVision and completed internships at EY and Deloitte.

Christine has a commerce degree from the University of Western Australia and is studying a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Sydney. 

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