Melbourne stalwarts Red Spice Road and Longrain close

Red Spice Road recently reopened at new premises on Queen Street.
Red Spice Road recently reopened at new premises on Queen Street.  Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Sources have revealed to The Age that all staff from the Apples + Pears Entertainment Group, which operates the 12-year-old Asian fusion restaurant Red Spice Road and Burma Lane, had their employment terminated on May 5.

A notice sent to employees on Tuesday stated that R Personnel, the employing entity for the group, had exhausted funds and was being placed into liquidation.

According to an employee who didn't wish to be named, staff had been working at reduced hours of eight days a fortnight, which was then cut to six days.

Red Spice Road's signature pork belly with chilli caramel, black vinegar and apple slaw.
Red Spice Road's signature pork belly with chilli caramel, black vinegar and apple slaw. Photo: Paul Jeffers

The company had been preparing for JobKeeper, but on April 29, staff were informed R Personnel was unable to fund the gap before the payment came in, and they were all being stood down. Their termination followed on May 5.

Timing of the shutdown followed major investment by the group in new premises for its flagship restaurant, which they recently relocated to 141 Queen Street. The email to staff indicated management were "hoping to re-open once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted". However the source said that stock and equipment from Red Spice Road had been removed.

For sponsored 457 visa holders the news is particularly devastating. With no access to government support, and little chance of finding new sponsored positions, they can be asked to leave the country within 60 days.

Communal tables inside Longrain restaurant in the CBD.
Communal tables inside Longrain restaurant in the CBD. Photo: Supplied

The news follows confirmation that another CBD stalwart, Lisa and John Van Haandel's 15-year-old modern Thai hero Longrain, and upstairs bar Longsong, would not be reopening.

Speaking of the closure, Lisa Van Haandel cited ongoing lease issues as the final straw, but not the only factor.

"Our industry out of all industries has been decimated by social distancing. Our venues are both big, and thrive on that bustling communal energy," she said. 

Van Haandel predicts that restrictions limiting capacity when restaurants are able to reopen will be unsustainable for many hospitality businesses.