A bitter legal battle is being waged over the ownership of one of Preston’s most popular nightclubs - after it was claimed 93 staff had lost their jobs at the venue.
MACs Bar in Friargate was launched by director and shareholder Andy MacDonald in April 2011.
The award-winning club has become one of the best-known nightspots in the city under the stewardship of the former UCLan student, who also owns YBD Promotions and runs Ships and Giggles in Fylde Road.
But following a difference of opinions with his business partner Aftab Ali, from the Indian restaurant chain Babar Elephant, Mr MacDonald and his staff have been ousted from the club.
He said the co-shareholders had fallen out over opening times and that 93 employees, including bar staff, DJs, managers, bouncers, cleaners and promotions staff, had been sacked without his approval.
However, Mr Ali said the majority of these workers were from YBD Promotions, whose contracts along with those of an external security team were terminated after he discovered the club faced losing its licence due to alleged trouble at the venue.
He said the 30 or so workers on MACs’ payroll had chosen to walk out on their jobs, after he responded to police concerns by bringing forward the bar’s closing time.
Mr MacDonald said today: “I’m doing all I can to regain control and the 93 people who lost their jobs, I’m fighting for them to get their jobs back.
“I think I did a really good job with MACs. It was very successful, everything was fine and there wasn’t a problem.
“Whatever has gone on between me and my partner should have taken place in a board owf directors’ meeting. This is not a dispute that should have affected anybody else.
“I did not agree with the new opening hours of my club and a change in management and as a result of this he went over my head and these changes were made.”
Some nightclub-gowers took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about the decision, while an online petition started by Mr MacDonald, calling on “Preston Council to get Andy Mac back in MACs”, was signed by more than 1,100 people in two days. It has since been closed.
Ben Griffith, a bar supervisor at MACs for two years, said he had gone into work as normal before staff were ordered to leave or be escorted out by a new security team.
He said: “I felt a bit uncomfortable so I decided the best thing to do was go. I left out the back door.
“I’ve had no reason for being sacked. It was upsetting and I’m out of a job coming up to Christmas.”
Mr Ali denied these allegations and told the Evening Post he had been forced to take action to avoid a licence review hearing.
He said: “There has been a change of management and MACs is trading as normal.
“There is a dispute between the directors and legal proceedings are carrying on.
“The changes have been made to protect the company’s best interests - it is as simple as that.”
Mr Ali has employed David Beveridge, who has managed other Preston nightclubs including Lava & Ignite and Squires, to run the business.
Mr Beveridge said: “I met Sgt John Lovick from Preston Police’s Licensing Department. We had gone through a big list of incidents and we more or less agreed we would prefer not to go to review.”
He said they voluntarily offered to close at 2.30am instead of 3.30am and informed workers on Wednesday, November 20 of a meeting to discuss the various changes.
He said some angry members of staff stormed off the premises and claims they have not returned for their wages.
Lancashire Police confirmed its officers “had been in dialogue with the management about incidents of crime and disorder”.
Preston Council said it had received a request to transfer the licensee of the venue from Macs Leisure Ltd to Babar Elephant, but had no say in the bar’s ownership.
A council spokesman said: “The licensing system operates in the interest of public safety and providing that the licensed premises functions within the objectives and conditions of the licence, then it is a matter that the council cannot get involved in.”