Hope for Rigoni’s Bistro as potential buyers line up

More than a dozen parties have expressed interest in buying Adelaide power restaurant Rigoni’s Bistro, which continues to trade as administrators attempt to secure its sale.

May 22, 2019, updated May 22, 2019
Rigoni's Bistro was placed under external administration in April. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Rigoni's Bistro was placed under external administration in April. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

An administrator for the iconic Leigh Street eatery – a favourite of generations of politicians and business people – was appointed last month.

The Italian restaurant traces its history back to 1956.

According to the minutes of a meeting of its creditors, obtained by InDaily, a total of 14 parties had by then expressed an interest in the business.

Rigoni’s director Tony Bailey declined to comment on the strength of trade over the past month but said he had personally received an extraordinary level of support from staff, customers and suppliers since negotiations with the Australian Tax Office failed and he was forced to hand the business over to administrators in April.

“The support I’ve received personally from customers, suppliers and staff – and supporters – has phenomenal, it’s been amazing,” Bailey told InDaily.

“We’re encouraging people to support the business because there’s no reason to shut it down.”

According to the minutes, the business owes the tax office $1.1 million – but is expected to continue to break even.

“The administrator is continuing to trade the business with the view of obtaining a sale,” it reads.

“The administrator was expecting for trading during the administration period to be break even and would be monitoring trading closely.”

It says expressions of interest in the business closed on April 24, with binding offers required by the start of this month.

Bailey said this morning that no decision had yet been made on the future of the business.

If administrators fail to sell it, the business would likely be forced into liquidation.

Bailey told the creditor’s meeting that he was “in a position that he had never wanted to get to,” the minutes say.

“(But) the company was not able to negotiate a repayment plan with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and – despite recent profitable trading – had no option but to appoint an administrator.

“Mr Bailey advised that on 8 April 2019 he had also been made aware of a director penalty notice issued by the ATO in mid-2018.”

Bailey told the meeting he had been seeking finance to allow him to propose a payment plan to the ATO.

The business’s debts to the tax office include $105,000 to trade creditors and $114,000 claimed as being owed to an unsecured lender.

Liquidator Michael Basedow told the meeting it would take a “very successful business sale and recoveries from investigations” for there to be a return to ordinary unsecured creditors.

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Overall, it was “unlikely that there would be sufficient funds for a return to unsecured creditors”.

A report on the company’s activities submitted to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, also obtained by InDaily, shows Rigoni’s owes just over $23,000 to its employees in holiday pay and $1538 to Bailey in unpaid wages.

Its assets, according to the document, are valued at $345,045.

Rigoni’s was originally established in Moonta Street Adelaide in 1956 as Rigoni’s Café.

In 1979, Rigoni’s Café was sold to the famous Adelaide restaurant family, the Caons, who moved the restaurant to Leigh Street where it was re-opened as Rigoni’s Bistro.

The restaurant is in the heart of Adelaide’s thriving small bar scene which has grown up around Leigh and Peel streets.

Long before the small bar explosion, Rigoni’s was the restaurant of choice for politicians and other city powerbrokers.

In 2016, the restaurant was at the centre of political headlines when South Australia’s then Water Minister Ian Hunter stormed out of a meeting of fellow water ministers after delivering an expletive-laden rebuke.

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