Jamie's Italian Canberra has closed suddenly, with the Canberra Centre restaurant not opening on Monday after a busy weekend of trade.
In a statement, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group confirmed the closure, "with immediate effect".
They also announced that Brisbane-based Hallmark Group would take over operating the Australian franchises of the chain, with Jamie's Italian restaurants in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Parramatta and Adelaide to remain open.
The Canberra restaurant is the only one in Australia to shut, with no reason given for its closure. Instead, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group Australia COO Ben Shaughnessy said Australia was, "one of our best performing international markets" for the restaurant.
"After a short period of in-house management we are pleased to be partnering with Hallmark. The team brings a huge amount of experience and passion for our brand, from collaborating with the key suppliers to our food philosophy, and we look forward to working with them as they develop the Jamie’s Italian restaurant offering across Australia,” Mr Shaughnessy said.
In a further blow for Canberra, a spokesperson for Hallmark said, “Hallmark are actively seeking new suitable locations for the next Jamie’s Italian”.
While a few staff could be seen in the Canberra restaurant on Monday, a sign on the door read, “Dear Canberra, It is with great sadness that Jamie’s Italian Canberra has had to close its doors indefinitely. We thankyou for all of your support over the last 4.5 years. From all the staff at Jamie’s Canberra we bid you a fond farewell [sic]."
The statement was signed, “Big Love Mr O xxx”.
Managers were informed of the closure early on Monday morning and staff were told to go and collect any personal items they had at the store, before the locks were changed on the doors before midday.
It's not clear how long staff will need to wait to receive pay and entitlements they are owed.
In February 2018 The London Telegraph reported that the Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain would close 13 sites and beg for rent cuts as the company struggled with debts of £70 million ($124 million).
Owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Italian first opened in Canberra facing Bunda Street in the Canberra Centre in 2013, with long queues stretching out the door in the initial months. At the time it was the third Jamie's Italian restaurant in Australia.
The Australian restaurants were co-owned and operated by hospitality company Keystone Group until June 2016, when the company was put into receivership.
In November 2016, Jamie Oliver stepped in to salvage the restaurants, buying all six Australian Jamie's Italians, taking over complete ownership.
At the time, Mr Oliver said he was considering further expansion in Australia.
"We're going to get our feet under the door and just kind of steady the ship here and then without question I'll be considering loads of options. And maybe [a restaurant that is] smaller and more neighbourhood as well," Mr Oliver said.