After being sued by a number of ex-contractors, Rainbow High Travel is taking on a new form and looking for a fresh start.
Jeff Rychel, a manager of high-rise buildings, says he is now the sole owner of Rainbow Village Travel. He says the company is entirely new and separate from Rainbow High Travel, which operated under the umbrella company Jeeves Travel (Weston).
Rychel has retained most of Rainbow High Travel’s previous employees, including two former directors of Jeeves Travel, John Wilkie and Seamus James Butterly. Both had left as directors earlier this year. Rainbow Village Travel will remain in the same space on Church Street that Rainbow High occupied.
On Oct 30, Xtra reported that three ex-contractors who claimed they hadn’t been paid were suing Rainbow High Travel. Two of those cases are still being heard, while one was resolved in a settlement conference in October. The results of the settlement cannot be made public.
A fourth claimant, Alan Beck, alleged that Liz Devine, now the sole owner of Jeeves Travel, borrowed $2,000 to pay off a $30,000 shortfall and failed to pay it back. Beck has since told Xtra that he will be dropping his claim because he and Devine reached a settlement outside of court.
Devine told Xtra in an email that undisclosed health issues forced her to take a break from the company over the summer, which subsequently necessitated a reorganization of the company. She confirmed that the new company would assume the lease on the Church Street space for the final month and would be operational as soon as possible. Devine did not elaborate on future plans for Rainbow High or Jeeves Travel.
When Xtra met with Rychel and his staff on Dec 1, they were already selling travel packages but said that as of Dec 9, they would begin operating under the wing of travel consortium Travel Plus.
Though Rychel is the first to admit he has no experience in the travel business, he is excited about owning the company. He says he had no previous involvement in Rainbow High and became involved only when he heard from his friend Wilkie that he might be looking to leave the company during the summer and start a new business.
According to Butterly, who is in charge of marketing and promotions, a lack of confidence in the ownership of the business began to trickle down to employees, some of whom began to look for other work.
When asked about staff members’ concerns, Devine said that they had urged her to take the summer off to focus on her health. “I appreciated the place where that encouragement and concern came from and would have understood if anyone had chosen to seek employment elsewhere,” she says. “However, everyone pitched in and stayed, and I hope that there will be a successful transition over the next few weeks.”
“I did want to invest in my own company,” Rychel says of starting Rainbow Village. “Something in the community — I looked at this as a viable option.” Butterly adds that it is important that the LGBT community have its own travel agency that can offer vetted and assured travel options, including ones that understand the needs of HIV-positive travellers.
Discussions about forming a new company that would employ former Rainbow High staff started in late September, according to Rychel, who provided Xtra with a corporation number for the new company. Devine says that there are still some agreeements to be signed.
In addition to retaining most of the old staff, Bob Bezanson, who worked briefly for Rainbow High in the summer while Devine was away on medical leave, is joining the company as the general manager. In an email, Bezanson says that they have no pending agreements left with Devine but are working through transitional issues as they take over the old Rainbow High space.
The new team is now focused on renewing confidence in Rainbow Village and expanding their services to the broader downtown Toronto community, Rychel says.