Thirty-six flipping good years comes to an end (for now)

Michael Weaver 19 May 2020 54
Capital Pancakes

Capital Pancakes in Civic closed its doors last week. Photo: File.

The sign on the entrance to Capital Pancakes at its well-known subterranean location near the Civic bus interchange almost says it all.

“Thank you, Canberra, for your support – 36 flipping good years.”

While the sign heralds the closure of the business, the final pancakes have not been flipped yet.

While the business closed its doors for the final time on Friday (15 May) at the old site in Civic, the owners say they will reopen in new premises before the end of this year.

“It’s been just shy of 36 years since we first began cooking pancakes in Canberra,” said original owner and cook Phillip Barton via their social media pages. “Now it’s over, but only at this location. It will not be the end of Capital Pancakes.”

The business has been serving takeaway meals since the shut down of restaurants on 24 March, but Mr Barton said the limit of 10 customers made it impractical to continue.

“The shutdown and follow-up restriction (of 10 customers) have obviously hit restaurant confidence and income hard. Without income, we’ve spent the last few months going quickly backwards. Overheads don’t stop,” he said.

Capital Pancakes had also been in negotiations with its landlord over a new lease.

Phillip Barton. Photo: File.

“Our offer of a new lease paying 10 per cent of our gross as rent was turned down flat by our landlord.

“Bearing in mind the economic circumstances, it was a major surprise and we spent a few days in shock.

“Obviously, the property owners believe that they can do better. It is their right to make that decision and we have to accept it. So, we are out, but most definitely not down,” Mr Barton said.

Region Media has tried to ascertain who is the landlord of Capital Pancakes, but can confirm, contrary to urban legend, it is not the Church of Scientology.

Mr Barton also said their business can easily be replicated in another location, but it will be somewhere less expensive.

“We were never defined by the site. It was great people serving a great product that attracted people to our old basement home – and made the business one of Canberra’s outstanding success stories.

“This is not the end of Capital Pancakes.

“We intend to re-establish in new premises before the end of this year and very much looking forward to seeing you all there.”

The business has received hundreds of messages of support or condolence and has posted a note of thanks to well-wishers on the door of the business.

“We cooked the best pancakes and had many truly wonderful customers. We will miss you all. We loved our business and are personally devastated,” the note read.

It is understood the business had about 20 employees who have temporarily lost their jobs; however, the current restrictions meant they could no longer continue.

Capital Pancakes is yet another iconic Canberra business that has closed its doors since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Others include the Capitol Theatre at Manuka and Home Timber and Hardware at Phillip.

Last week, ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said the closure of Capital Pancakes was a sad reminder of the impact government policies and regulations can have on small and family businesses.

“Having contributed to the social and cultural fabric of Canberra for decades, Capital Pancakes was a popular dining destination for Canberra families and visitors alike and will be missed.

“Canberra cannot afford to see this happen again,” Mr Coe said.

He said larger venues that can safely admit more than 10 patrons should be permitted to do so with adequate social distancing.

Liberal Member for Brindabella Mark Parton said he had spoken with almost 20 business owners in the last week who are on the edge of insolvency.

“I think we are staring down the barrel at a massive economic upheaval in the hospitality sector of this town,” Mr Parton said.

“At 10 diners in the house, the mathematics don’t work out for most of them. They lose money by going down that path and so we’re at the very critical time for so many of those businesses.

Capital Pancakes was first opened by Philip Barton as the Pancake Parlour in 1984. He also ran the first Pancake Parlour in Melbourne back in 1967 before opening the Canberra franchise in Alinga Street.

Two years ago when the business ended its association with the Pancake Parlour franchise and became Capital Pancakes, Mr Barton also wound back his involvement in the restaurant as his sons Jefferson, 40, and Luca, 21, took the reins.

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54 Responses to Thirty-six flipping good years comes to an end (for now)
HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:23 pm 19 May 20

“Our offer of a new lease paying 10 per cent of our gross as rent was turned down flat by our landlord.”

Interesting days ahead for the commercial property sector – lots of “re-imagining” and “re-activating” of “no longer fit for purpose” commercial premises as residential, doubtless heading our way.

Rodney TatStan Rodney TatStan 7:06 pm 19 May 20

Mollies needs to move in. Just saying

Damian Robins Damian Robins 4:20 pm 19 May 20

It is both incredibly demoralising and sad for a business, any business to work hard for 36 years, and after all that not even own the premises they operate from, let alone be in a huge amount of debt.

Simon O'Brien Simon O'Brien 4:01 pm 19 May 20

Dani don’t worry it’s not the end! 🤣

Robert McLaren Robert McLaren 2:53 pm 19 May 20

Debbie Houghton just a temporary shutdown and relocation apparently

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:39 pm 19 May 20

I don't know the rent details here, but I have known some shops to stay boarded up for years, because the landlord wouldn't drop the rent and they couldn't find anyone willing to pay what they were asking. In one case I was told that someone wanted to rent the shop and had offered a price to rent it, but the owners knocked them back. The property then stayed empty for several more years. If if the landlord had accepted half what they were asking they would have been ahead and had an income from the property, instead of it being empty for years. I used to own a rental house, but when I couldn't find someone to rent it I dropped the rent to get a tenant. So I got a bit less per week, but doing the maths, I was far better off than sticking to what was originally asked and being without a tenant, possibly for several months. Some people can't figure this out. However, as I said, I don't know the details here, so this is more a general comment.

Toshak Akita Toshak Akita 11:50 am 19 May 20

Was better when it was Pot Black..👍

Christopher Goldston Christopher Goldston 9:51 am 19 May 20

The 3am stagger from the Private Bin to the Pancake Parlour for recovery breakfast 😢🤘

    Dave Crooks Dave Crooks 8:02 pm 19 May 20

    Christopher Goldston stagger? Speak for yourself mate! More like a purposeful stride I would have thought...

    Christopher Goldston Christopher Goldston 8:46 pm 19 May 20

    Dave Crooks I nearly tagged you on this, but I just knew you would comment mate 🤣🤣🤣🍻🍻🍻

    Dave Crooks Dave Crooks 8:47 pm 19 May 20

    like a moth to a flame!

    Christopher Goldston Christopher Goldston 8:48 pm 19 May 20

    Dave Crooks yes it is brother!

Karen Hardy Karen Hardy 8:11 am 19 May 20


Alaina Gough Alaina Gough 7:31 am 19 May 20

Claire Garcia the country potatoes!

    Claire Garcia Claire Garcia 9:35 am 19 May 20

    Alaina Regan OMG we used to take livvy there just the 3 of us!!! 😞

Tracy Harrison Tracy Harrison 7:29 am 19 May 20

Hamish Rogan

Dimity Sheather Dimity Sheather 6:34 am 19 May 20

Adam Duncan whhaaaattt

    Adam Duncan Adam Duncan 6:40 am 19 May 20

    Dimity Sheather it’s not the end but. There’s hope 🤭

    Dimity Sheather Dimity Sheather 6:45 am 19 May 20

    Adam Duncan they are opening one last time before the end of the year

Sorrel Fuller Sorrel Fuller 5:52 am 19 May 20

Lilian King are you okay?

    Sorrel Fuller Sorrel Fuller 7:52 am 19 May 20

    Lilian King they are looking to come back! And I’ll make pancakes

    Lilian King Lilian King 7:58 am 19 May 20

    Sorrel Fuller i hope they do. I'm holding you to that!

Phillip Kim Phillip Kim 12:47 am 19 May 20

Ao Peng theres hope

    Ao Peng Ao Peng 1:35 pm 19 May 20

    Phillip Kim if it’s a new place, it won’t be the same

    Ao Peng Ao Peng 1:35 pm 19 May 20

    Phillip Kim it won’t be capital pancakes it would be just another pancake place

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 12:39 am 19 May 20

Well the landlords are idiots. Now the space is empty and they have no-one there and who will take it on now.

Leo Seyrl Leo Seyrl 12:07 am 19 May 20

First came to Canberra in 1995 and the large chess board set and Alice in Wonderland menu stood out. Great deal with pancakes + dendy deal, a shame its ending, heres to the memories, all good things 🙂

Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 11:20 pm 18 May 20

Can anyone confirm if it was or wasn't a Church of Scientology business? I've heard that rumour for decades!

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:21 am 19 May 20

    Stephen Esdaile The founders of the Pancake Parlour chain were Scientologists that is for sure.

    But remember that the Canberra store, up until its name change a little whilst back used the branding under licence. It wasn’t a “company” store.

    So who knows?

    B-rad McDonell B-rad McDonell 9:03 pm 19 May 20

    Just google the gentleman’s name and Scientology and you’ll get your answers. I don’t know if the breakaway from the Pancake Parlour brand a couple of years back was a breakaway from Scientology, but given the location of the church office it seems unlikely.

May Lura Flores May Lura Flores 11:04 pm 18 May 20

Omg no :( so sad. The best pancake house ive ever had. :(

OldMan Wyatt OldMan Wyatt 10:44 pm 18 May 20

So sad to see this Canberra ‘institution’ go for good. Was always a great family outing too.

Victoria Edmonds Victoria Edmonds 10:15 pm 18 May 20

I thought landlords were legally obliged to negotiate rents during COVID19 - rather than see businesses go bust. WFT is going on with the Sydney Building owners?

    Leo Menssen Leo Menssen 10:26 pm 18 May 20

    They are not going bust.they are just relocating.

    Victoria Edmonds Victoria Edmonds 8:04 am 19 May 20

    Leo Menssen go back & read the article again. They're closing down until they can find somewhere else because they couldn't renegotiate their rent. Do you think they're just moving for sh#t & giggles?

    Dick Ransom Dick Ransom 8:33 am 19 May 20

    Greedy landlords ... quelle surprise, plus ca change

    Leo Menssen Leo Menssen 9:18 am 19 May 20

    Victoria Edmonds like many businesses they have been effected by COVID-19.

    Alexander Campbell Alexander Campbell 9:31 am 19 May 20

    walked past on a public holiday, and they'd posted a passive aggressive note on their door about not opening as they had to pay their workers penalty rates.

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