Sydney's Fabbrica Pasta Bar in Balmain has abruptly closed in the wake of a business split between Love Tilly Group and Public Hospitality. Meanwhile, Redfern's La Salut — a Spanish wine bar within The Norfolk Hotel — will continue to stay open, but no longer under the direction of the Love Tilly Group. As of today, it is run by Public Hospitality.
The split also means the forthcoming Fabbrica Pasta Bar set to open inside The Federal (another Public Hospitality venue) will no longer go ahead. The Love Tilly Group confirmed that there are still plans to open more Fabbrica Pasta Bars, independently — with some sites to be announced as soon as next week.
"It's a devastatingly difficult decision for us to make," says Love Tilly Group managing director Matthew Swieboda in a statement. "But for the benefit of the staff and the suppliers, we can no longer, in good faith, continue to run our venues together with Public Hospitality."
This follows Public Hospitality's rapid expansion across Sydney and now Victoria, which has seen it partner with some of Australia's leading culinary talent, including Clayton Wells and Guy Grossi.
Between 2020 and 2022, it was reported that Public Hospitality bought 16 significant Sydney venues. Last year, it also acquired Bondi behemoth Noah's Backpackers for a reported $68 million.
This year alone, the group has acquired the award-winning Maybe Group, which includes Maybe Sammy, Dean & Nancy on 22 and Maybe Frank; opened its first Melbourne venue, Saint Hotel, followed by The Clifton Hotel in Kew in collaboration with Guy Grossi; reopened Parramatta Road pub The Lady Hampshire; announced former Automata chef Clayton Wells as creative culinary director; and, most recently, brought in Toby Wilson's Ricos Tacos to take over two levels of The Norfolk Hotel as well as opened new Paddington bar Busby's inside Oxford House.
But some have questioned whether bigger really is better in the case of Public Hospitality. In April this year, the Australian Financial Review wrote: "The whole enterprise attracts a tremendous level of cynicism in Sydney's gossipy investment circles."
In May, AFR also reported that Public Hospitality is "groaning under the weight of more than $500 million of short-term debt at usurious interest rates" and that "by Public's own calculations, it has already burned $95 million on interest, which – though some is prepaid – will continue to accrue at more than $1.5 million per week."
Most recently, on 16 October 2023, AFR reported that Public Hospitality's "$450 million refinancing drags on" and that chief executive Jon Adgemis is "seeking to hoover up some of the debt held by senior lenders at the pubs and hotels roll-up."
When asked for comment in relation to Public Hospitality's reported finances, Love Tilly Group declined to comment.
Public Hospitality currently cites 14 hospitality businesses on its website, mostly in Sydney, with one in Byron Bay and two in Victoria. Its mission is "to create Australia's premier millennial lifestyle network of hospitality venues" according to Australia Managed Funds.
Public Hospitality responded with the following: "Public is disappointed to have been informed today that Love Tilly Group has decided to end the commercial relationship. While there have been disputed commercial matters, Public understood these to be progressing. Public thank Love Tilly Group for their contribution and wish them well in future endeavours. Consistent with Public's strategy of owning and operating strong hospitality brands, Public purchased the La Salut brand in 2022 and will continue to operate at The Norfolk in Redfern, including offering employment for existing staff."
Fabbrica Pasta Bar Balmain is now closed. La Salut in Redfern is still open, now operating under Public Hospitality.