Jamie’s Italian shuts for good in Brisbane and 3 other capitals
It seems grim irony has no limits these days.
A case in point involves a Brisbane-based restaurant group which acquired several troubled venues over the past two years in an effort to turn them around.
Well, they have now fallen victim to the virus-induced Armageddon laying waste to so many hospitality operators.
Entrepreneurs Scott Hempel and Sean Heanen tipped three entities in their Hallmark restaurant network into liquidation this week.
The result is the permanent closure of the four Jamie's Italian restaurants in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.
Not even the generous state and federal government assistance packages getting wheeled out on an almost daily basis could save the day.
Ironically, the pair had come to the rescue in 2018, when Jamie Oliver's global eatery empire was fast unravelling.
Hallmark took over the four Jamie's operations just before administrators were appointed and have been running them ever since.
Liquidator Anne Meagher from SV Partners will now be diving into the books and records but we already know 27 permanent workers and 114 casuals have lost their jobs across the four shuttered outlets. It's understood all have been fully paid out.
Launched in 2014, Hallmark also operates two Finn McCool's pubs, two Retro's cocktail bars and Lefty's Old Time Music Hall on Caxton Street. A Jamie's Pizzeria venue on the Gold Coast is unaffected by the closures.
Hallmark only acquired Lefty's from a financially-strapped former owner in November and reopened it with a lavish launch party in late February.
Hempel and Heanen could not be reached for comment yesterday but a Hallmark spin doctor vowed that the group's remaining venues "will reopen as soon as it's safe to do so''.
Brisbane property tycoon Kevin Seymour has quietly used a spare $1.17 million to take full advantage of the nosedive on the ASX.
A Rich Lister with an estimated family fortune of around $900 million before the virus hit, he has bumped up his holding in the Ariadne Australia investment group by 20 per cent.
Seymour, who serves as deputy chairman of Ariadne, acquired another 2.35 million shares in the group last week.
That's on top of the 11.6 million he already controlled indirectly through three investment vehicles.
Shares in Ariadne, which suffered a $5.1 million net loss in the half-year to December, closed at 44 cents yesterday. That's down from a high of nearly 80 cents in late 2017.
Strange times, strange bedfellows. In a mighty rare move, controversial CFMEU boss Michael Ravbar and Master Builders Queensland CEO Grant Galvin penned a joint letter to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week.
Together they applauded the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis and welcomed the decision to keep the building and construction sector protected as an "essential industry''.
At stake are the livelihoods of 253,000 workers and 78,000 mostly small businesses that comprise the sector across Queensland, the unlikely pair said.
"We are firmly of the view that if the industry shuts down, the economic knock-on effects would be devastating on a scale that would dwarf what we have seen to date,'' the gents warned.
As we noted earlier, irony abounds. A City Beat spy has alerted us to a sign outside the shuttered Pig 'N' Whistle pub in King George Square apologising for the virus-driven closure and promising to re-open as soon as possible.
"Stay safe (and compliant!)'' it reads.
Compliant? That's an intriguing choice of words given the troubles facing Brisbane hospitality tycoon Godfrey Mantle and his Mantle Group, which runs the pub chain.
Law enforcement agencies carried out raids in February related to allegations of underpayment of foreign workers and the faking of timesheets.
The group has denied any impropriety and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mantle himself.
Originally published as Jamie's Italian shuts for good in Brisbane and 3 other capitals