19 May 2020

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

| Michael Weaver
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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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HiddenDragon7:23 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.

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