It’s the end of the road for a dining institution after it was revealed its owners were unable to access government help to see them through the tough times.
It’s the end of the road for a dining institution after it was revealed its owners were unable to access government help to see them through the tough times.

Top eatery shuts after 14 years

PEARL LOSES ITS LUSTRE

It's the end of the road for a Brisbane dining institution.

The Pearl Café, a well-regarded European-style bistro which established itself 14 years ago in a niche hospitality precinct in Woolloongabba, has shut the doors for good.

Joint owners Andrew Watson and Laila Watson-Morovat, who only acquired the business in April last year, conveyed the bad news this week to shocked patrons via Instagram.

No surprise that the pandemic was the major culprit but, sadly, the pair revealed they also couldn't access government help to see them through the tough times.

Andrew Watson at The Pearl cafe in Woolloongabba
Andrew Watson at The Pearl cafe in Woolloongabba

"Since the start of the pandemic, unlike the majority of our competitors, we have not had any assistance from the federal government in the form of job keeper (sic) or cash flow bonuses due to a technicality when purchasing the business,'' they posted.

"With little to no vision as to when COVID restrictions will end (trading at 54% capacity pre January lockdown), we have made the tough commercial decision to cease trading and close the business permanently.''

The business partners had earlier given no hint about the weight of their troubles.

Indeed, their Facebook posting on Christmas Eve thanked customers and said "see you in 2021''.

Watson, who has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality game, declined to comment when City Beat rang for a chat.

He previously spent time at Baskin-Robbins and Beach House Bar & Grill, as well as more than a decade as operations manager at the Raw Group, which operates a number of eateries, including Madame Wu and Chu The Phat in Brisbane.

Watson-Morovat, a current Suncorp staffer who previously had stints with ANZ and Medibank, could not be reached.

Launched in 2007 by original owner Dan Lewis, The Pearl Café occupied a Heritage-listed building on Logan Road opposite the Gabba.

He later sold to Kiwi expat Manita Arnold, who then took the venue to new heights before bailing out at the height of the pandemic lockdown last year

With exposed brick walls, bentwood chairs and timber flooring, it conjured up the feel of a cozy Parisian nook and helped instigate the revitalisation of the antique shopping area into a drinking and dining hub.

The vibe was sweet but it was the food that kept people coming back. There's nothing now but fond memories of dishes like the pan-fried scallops with roasted artichoke, twice-cooked duck with truffled potato mash and oxtail ragu on spelt pappardelle.

Could it all be revived? Watson hopes someone will take over the lease so we'll wait to see what happens.

HARD TIMES

Speaking of hard times, Brisbane music venue maestro John Collins warned this week that his two standout joints are still doing it tough despite happy talk in some media about the champers starting to flow again at hotels across the city.

John Collins
John Collins

"Sadly, there is no champagne flowing at the Triffid or Fortitude Music Hall while we remain at less than 20% capacity,'' the former Powderfinger bass player told his mates on Facebook.

"The venues are in no way back. It would be great to be represented in the media so the public realise the dire situation live music venues are facing.''

Consider it done JC!

Originally published as Top Brisbane eatery shuts after 14 years


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