Power problems, $15 pints and low foot traffic: Why a renovated city pub closed two months after reopening

Operators of a newly renovated hotel in the city’s West End placed the company into liquidation this week just two months after opening, saying myriad issues had made the business untenable.

Feb 16, 2024, updated Feb 16, 2024
The Edinburgh Castle pub has closed again, two months after reopening. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily.

The Edinburgh Castle pub has closed again, two months after reopening. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily.

Adelaide’s oldest licensed pub is the latest West End venue to close, with the Edinburgh Castle – which reopened on 15 December following a “substantial” renovation – bringing in liquidators this week.

The venue’s operator, Trident House, appointed liquidators Rodgers Reidy on February 12, and the historic pub’s landlord will be advertising a tenancy soon. Liquidators will also auction off some of Trident’s assets “in the coming weeks”.

Word that the pub known informally as the Ed Castle was making a comeback, after closing in 2018 when a 17-story student apartment block was built behind it, first spread in August 2023 when local live music-loving Instagram page @that_adelaide_band revealed a renovation was underway at the CBD spot.

InDaily then attempted to contact the operators to learn more about the pub’s revival but did not receive a response. Months later, the pub reopened and, as reported by The Note, live music resumed at the Ed Castle on February 2.

Ten days later liquidators were appointed to sell off Trident’s assets. A press release from Rodgers Reidy liquidator Robert Naudi cited myriad problems which made running the pub untenable.

This includes claims that SA Power Networks was delayed in restoring power to the site, the latest increase in the excise tax on alcohol, and “significantly less than expected” foot traffic.

“The directors advised that Trident House had invested substantial sums towards the Ed Castle. In addition they could not commence trading from the Waymouth Street premises due to long delays in power restoration by SA Power Networks. The financial distress was further exacerbated by foot traffic being significantly less than expected to the Ed Castle, directly impacting the ability to meet minimum sales to cover overheads,” Naudi’s press release reads.

“The company was enjoying a rent-free period, however the directors noted the final nail decision to liquidate was made following the latest increase in the excise tax on alcohol which would take the cost of a pint to $15 and they anticipated this further exacerbating the poor trading performance of the Company. The directors advised they had no further funds to inject into the company’s operations, and a difficult decision was made to liquidate the Company after considering all available options.

“The Ed Castle had undergone a significant refit together with new assets acquired from both finance and director funding.”

Naudi said he was yet to receive a Report on Company Activities and Property (ROCAP) from the Trident directors, but he noted that “preliminary information indicates the unsecured creditors are less than $100,000 which may increase as the liquidation progress”.

“On a positive note which is rarely seen in liquidations, Trident House owes no debt to the ATO, and the employees are paid up to date with only a small superannuation exposure outstanding,” Naudi said.

“Persons interested in each location should look for future advertising by the Landlords and in the meantime an auction of assets is expected in the coming weeks.”

It brings to a close the latest chapter in the history of the Ed Castle, SA’s first licensed hotel which opened in 1837.

Before Trident’s takeover of the site, it sat unoccupied for years after former operator Tony Bond handed back the keys in 2018, with the development of an $80 million student accommodation tower next door the final nail in the coffin for the historic site and beloved live music venue.

It’s the latest entertainment venue in the city’s West End to close following the demise of 12 businesses in the past year, including six in December alone. These include Super Bueno, Super California, Fat Controller, Enigma Bar, 1000 Island, Mr Kim’s, Wnderland, Precinct, Lux, Strats and Onyx. Nightclub Red Square is also set to close on March 9 after 22 years of entertainment at Hindley Street.

The venues cited various reasons for the closures, like increased cost of overheads such as rent and insurance and a decline in patrons.

Adelaide City Council will host a roundtable forum to discuss the challenges facing Adelaide’s night-time economy soon, with findings to be presented to the council in time to action any assistance options in the 2024-25 budget.

The state government also announced in January a $900,000 extension of its ‘See It Live’ grants program, with up to $60,000 available to operators to host live music.

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