More than 60 couples fleeced in Willows wedding wipeout
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More than 60 couples fleeced in Willows wedding wipeout

Dozens of couples looking forward to the 'happiest day of their lives' will start married life thousands of dollars out of pocket after reception centre The Willows shut up shop.

The 64 soon-to-be newlyweds are collectively owed $323,000, with one couple having put down a deposit of $17,000.

The Willows wedding venue.

The Willows wedding venue.Credit:Eddie Jim

Liquidator Dye and Co has been appointed to wind up the venue manager's company, Lewis Hospitality Management Pty Ltd, and creditors could face grim news.

The company's balance sheet shows that it's more than $1.3 million in debt and lists 135 unsecured creditors, according to documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

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The company owes more than $600,000 in unpaid loans from six high-interest lenders.

Suppliers said they had unpaid invoices dating back to last year.

Housed in a heritage-listed mansion built in 1890, the St Kilda Road venue was bought by Aaron and Estelle Lewis in 2002.

Willows owner Aaron Lewis

Willows owner Aaron LewisCredit:Channel Seven

Mr Lewis is a New-Zealand born chef by trade, while Ms Lewis has a background in sales and corporate HR.

Among the mountain of creditors are Crystal White Cleaning Suppliers and VIP Cleaning owned by couple Seema Imran and Imran Salim who are owed more than $7000 and say they have unpaid invoices dating back to October 2017.

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“About seven or eight months ago they stopped paying full invoices and started paying them in multiple payments weeks apart,” Mr Salim said.

Tip Top butchers in Laverton has also been left in the lurch, with director Paul De Bortoli saying he only found out about the situation from their delivery staff.

“We found out from our drivers who heard it on the radio,” he said.

“It's not great that we probably won't see our money, but I feel worse for the poor couples.

"It’s meant to be the happiest day of their lives and they’ve been left with nothing."

Mr Lewis’s family in New Zealand were not aware the company had gone into administration and said they had not heard from the couple in recent weeks.

Company documents list Mr Lewis as the director and sole shareholder of Lewis Hospitality Management.

The company had been hitting up clients with requests for increased deposits as recently as three weeks ago, before pulling down the company’s website and Facebook page over the weekend along with their personal LinkedIn accounts.

Once a liquidator is appointed, the directors of the company must provide a summary statement about its business, property, affairs and financial circumstances. The liquidator must convene a meeting of the company’s creditors within 11 days.

Documents reveal the owners of The Willows borrowed $134,250 early last month, which they secured against a personal property in Mount Eliza that has since been put on the market. It's estimated that the home would fetch about $1.5 million at auction.

Neither the Lewises nor their company own the St Kilda Road building.

The high-interest loan lodged by Brisbane based solicitors Elliott May Lawyers lists the guarantors as Aaron and Estelle Lewis and an interest rate of 4.95 per month.

Ms Lewis was contacted but refused to comment.