The Autolyse cafe in Braddon has been closed down and its staff dismissed as it was revealed the previous owner owed almost $1 million to the Australian Tax Office.
It also means the end of Autolyse bread, including its famous sourdough, with the bakery closing and stopping supply to outlets across Canberra.
The business has been sold to a new owner, whose identity has not been revealed, for an undisclosed sum. The liquidator, Alan Hayes, said the terms of the sale were confidential.
Mickey Gubas, a director of the company which started Autolyse in 2013, has no part in the new arrangements, the liquidator maintaining Mr Gubas' company had previously been operating the business while it was insolvent.
Mr Hayes closed Autolyse on Wednesday afternoon and told its 12 full-time employees and 20 casual employees they no longer had a job.
On Wednesday evening, locks were changed and fittings were taken out of the building on a prime position along Canberra's eat street, Lonsdale Street. The new owner takes over the assets of the business; including fittings with Mr Hayes making the decision to shut Autolyse.
Mr Hayes explained the sale and closure were the staff's best hope for being paid their outstanding superannuation and other entitlements.
"This is the only way employees' superannuation will be paid," he said.
"My obligation was to maximise the return to creditors. That's what I've done."
The former workers may not have a job but it appears their employment at Autolyse had a "limited future" in any case, as the previous owner had never reported an annual profit, owed almost $1 million to the ATO and failed to meet employee obligations.
"Superannuation went unpaid on a regular basis and in some cases the debts owing were more than 18 months old," Mr Hayes said.
"My view is that the company, of which [Mr Gubas] was the director, was trading insolvent prior to my appointment, hence creditors resolved to liquidate the company.."
Mr Gubas had indirectly attempted to re-purchase the business after it went into liquidation but Mr Hayes sold the business to another party that had made a "substantially higher offer". Mr Gubas was also involved in another company which ran the failed Alto restaurant in Telstra Tower. It closed in 2013, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the ATO.
Mr Hayes said any outstanding entitlements owed to Autolyse staff accrued since his appointment on November 15 last year, when he became operator of the business, would be paid out by him.
Any outstanding entitlements aside from superannuation from before November 15 would only be paid if the employees made a successful claim through the Federal Government's Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme.
When asked if the ATO would get any of the nearly $1 million owed, Mr Hayes said that was unlikely.
Mr Gubas had previously blamed the failure of Autolyse in Canberra on the demise of its Sydney sister store, which closed in March 2015, saying sales in Sydney did not meet expectations.
Mr Hayes disagreed, saying after the liquidator closed the Sydney store, Mr Gubas' company had been given a second chance by creditors who had agreed to write off debt through a deed of company arrangement help him continue Autolyse in Canberra and trade out of trouble.
Mr Gubas' company had needed to avoid getting into more debt and pay off at least some existing debt but had failed to do both.
"He had his second chance at Autolyse but failed," Mr Hayes said.
Mr Hayes confirmed the Autolyse bakery had also closed, ending supply of the bread to outlets throughout Canberra including Coles and Supabarn.
He said the new owner had not disclosed what they intended to do with the business.
Mr Hayes said he sincerely hoped the former Autolyse employees would quickly find new jobs in the hospitality industry.