8 October 2018

Max Brenner Kingston closes but ‘profitable’ Belconnen cafe gains reprieve

| Glynis Quinlan
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The Max Brenner chocolate bar in Westfield Belconnen (pictured) will remain open but the Kingston cafe will close. Photos by Glynis Quinlan.

The Max Brenner chocolate bar on the Kingston Foreshore closes its doors for the last time tonight (October 8) with staff to lose their jobs and customers to lose their waterside chocolate haunt.

The Eastlake Parade cafe is one of 20 company-owned outlets nationwide to be closed by voluntary administrators today while the Belconnen Max Brenner cafe is one of 17 to continue operating.

The closure of the Kingston chocolate bar has left employees in shock with the administrators, McGrathNicol, only appointed on September 28 and the decision made to close the 20 stores made public last Friday – only three days before the closures took effect.

The RiotACT understands that the decision has left the Kingston cafe staff feeling tense and uncertain about their future.

It is also a loss for customers who in recent days have been visiting the chocolate cafe to express their support.

In a statement on Friday, McGrathNicol partners Barry Kogan, Kathy Sozou and Jason Preston said the decision to close the 20 stores has been made “following a detailed and urgent review of operations” and would be effective from the end of today (October 8).

The statement said that staff working at the 20 stores – which includes the Kingston store – would be made redundant.

Administrator Barry Kogan said the decision to close stores is “always regrettable” but that administrators were left with no choice following a store-by-store review of Max Brenner Australia operations.

The Max Brenner cafe located on the top level of Westfield Belconnen, however, has been named as one of the stores which will stay open because the review has found it to be ‘profitable’.

Inside the Max Brenner Belconnen cafe which is to remain open because it is seen as ‘profitable’.

“The remaining 17 stores in the Max Brenner network will stay open and it will be business as usual in these stores,” Mr Kogan said.

“These stores are profitable and will be offered for sale or recapitalisation.

“Advertisements will be placed in the Australian Financial Review and The Australian newspapers on Monday seeking expressions of interest in a restructure or purchase of the profitable store network,” he said.

“Based on the strong interest we have received to date we expect a high volume of inquiries.”

The Administrators said the decision to close the 20 stores and terminate employees was made with careful consideration of all options available to keep the remaining business trading and effect a sale.

They have urged Max Brenner customers to show their support for the 17 stores left open to help ensure that they remain viable, “for the benefit of employees and customers going forward”.

Max Brenner is headquartered in New York with the Australian operations starting in NSW 18 years ago. Max Brenner Australia’s head office/distribution centre is in Alexandria (NSW), and the company’s 37 stores employ around 600 staff – many of whom have now lost their jobs.

Max Brenner Australia directors resolved to appoint voluntary administrators in late September “due to escalating costs and tighter retail trade”.

The first meeting of creditors will be held at 11 am on Thursday, October 11 at the Wesley Conference Centre located at 220 Pitt Street, Sydney.

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