The highly rated Bar Padres restaurant-bar in Kiama has suddenly closed after the company behind Thirroul eateries Papi's and Boveda was put into liquidation.
The shock closure was to be a "one last week" farewell, but this has been brought forward and the doors are locked in a move which left the owners "devastated".
A liquidator's notice is on the door announcing the demise of Three Ballin Pty Ltd, which had expanded from burgers and fried chicken to small bars and fine dining - until now.
With Three Ballin, chefs Barry Pearson and Andrew Juskiw rode the popularity of Americana "dude food" in the Illawarra and the Hank's Fried Chicken truck at Fairy Meadow, Papi's (later closed and turned into Busters Tavern) in Thirroul and catering firm Cater Boys.
They then took the leap fine dining with swish Mexican venue Boveda in Thirroul, and Bar Padres - each of which were run by separate companies.
But with Three Ballin Pty Ltd, the company behind Papi's, Busters and Hanks, being liquidated the Bar Padres landlord has taken possession of the venue.
Mr Pearson said the group's other ventures were not affected.
He said it had been a stressful time for all involved and blamed the company's demise on various factors including the breakdown of business relationships and contracts.
"It broke our hearts to have to liquidate the business we'd worked so hard to build, and sacrificed so much for, but we were left with no other choice," he told the Mercury.
Troubles arose when the popular Papi's bar and burger restaurant was closed in July - with much fanfare and a farewell party. After a quick refurbishment it reopened soon afterwards as Busters Tavern, the dive bar aesthetic of Papi's replaced by more brightly lit family-friendly environs.
But Busters was rarely full, and closed for good a week into October, less than two weeks after Three Ballin's principals had met with accountants and decided to liquidate the company straight away.
Mr Pearson said a breakdown in the lease relationship and the inability to sign a new term had been a bad blow.
ASIC documents show Three Ballin Pty Ltd, has debts to employees, utilities and the tax office. Mr Pearson said they hadn't come this far by underpaying their staff.
"The only debts to employees are leave entitlements to the owners of the business, and the superannuation owing will be paid in full very shortly," he said.
"All of our employees were as upset as we were about the closure of our business, and thankfully we were able to offer some of them positions within our other businesses."
Bar Padres had two of the same directors as Three Ballin - Mr Pearson and Mr Juskiw - but was operated under a different company.
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