RAGING restaurant owners have clashed in a bitter battle over who owns a costly set of cookers, tables and chairs.
Businessman Scott Matthews - who runs Relentless HQ in Port Solent - has gone to war with Claudio Maresca, owner of Don Claudio, in Southsea.
Mr Matthews says Mr Maresca has refused to give back ‘£50,000 worth’ of equipment he was loaned when he opened the Jubilee Terrace establishment in 2014 - something Mr Maresca denies.
The row boiled over on Thursday afternoon, when Mr Matthews and his team stormed the restaurant – which he used to run as J’s Italian - and started repossessing tables and chairs as customers tucked into their lunches.
A horrified Mr Maresca said: ‘He came like a terrorist into the restaurant during lunch and when we were full of people - people were literally thrown out of their chairs.
‘It was shocking, he just started taking tables and chairs. It was all very organised.’
Mr Maresca took on the restaurant in 2014 and was paying Mr Matthews £700 a week for items Mr Matthews had originally purchased..
However, things broke down when he agreed to take over the lease from Mr Matthews in June.
Mr Matthews claimed that all the fittings and fixtures he paid for when he first refurbished the site could either be bought by Mr Maresca or he would take them out.
He said that Mr Maresca then claimed the items had been ‘left behind’ and ‘were no longer his’.
Mr Matthews told The News: ‘I gave someone an opportunity to make something of themselves - that doesn’t happen in everyday life.
‘I’ve worked all my life working hard to make something for myself that’s working seven days a week missing Christmas, family dos and everything in between.
‘The day I gave an employee/friend a chance [this happens and] it makes me sick to the bone.’
Mr Maresca said that there was equipment owned by Mr Matthews but claimed solicitors acting on behalf of the restaurant’s landlord had already written to Mr Matthews and urged him to confirm which items were his so a collection could be arranged.
However, Mr Matthews said he has received no such letter and had warned Mr Maresca in a series of emails that he would be coming into the restaurant to collect items ‘by October 1’.
He added that when he attended the restaurant, only four customers were there and that he informed them what he and his team were doing and why they were there.
He said: ‘It was very organised - I’m an organised person. But it’s not like Claudio hadn’t known what was going to happen.’
Police were called during the incident, with the force saying they had been made aware of a civil dispute at 1.13pm. A spokesman added officers were now investigating reports of criminal damage.
Mr Matthews has since filed a civil case with Portsmouth County Court to repossess items which he says are his, including: tables, chairs, three cookers, a kitchen pass, coffee machine, pizza oven, extraction hood as well as a number of pumps in the basement.
Don Claudio is closed tonight but is expected to open tomorrow.