A Melbourne burger joint owned by celebrity chef Shannon Bennett has been placed into liquidation owing almost $170,000 to suppliers and the tax office.
The collapse of a Benny Burger restaurant is the latest blow to Bennett’s hospitality empire following the closure of other venues, the departures of senior executives and an ongoing Fair Work Ombudsman investigation into allegations of underpayment at his flagship restaurant Vue de monde.
A liquidator's report filed with the corporate regulator on October 11 shows Benny Burger on Little Collins Street owed more than $27,000 to former employees and almost $133,000 to about 20 suppliers.
The restaurant that served "ethical burgers" made with organic products also owes almost $36,000 to the Australian Tax Office.
Mr Bennett did not respond to requests for comment, but a Vue Group spokesman insisted that all staff entitlements had already been paid in full, while suppliers would be settled in accordance with standard payment terms.
"Vue Group has made the commercial decision to exit the Benny Burger brand due to a shift in priorities," the spokesman said.
"Vue Group remains focused on providing aspirational guest experiences through its diverse portfolio of venues."
The MasterChef star and his Singaporean partners Far East Organisation were forced to close another Benny Burger outlet in Richmond in May, claiming the Swan Street location did not "align with its long-term vision for the brand".
Last month, a live music venue owned by Mr Bennett's Vue Group and prominent businessman Lorenz Grollo's company shut down less than a year after opening its doors in the CBD.
Mr Bennett denied the Geddes Lane Ballroom had been closed.
"Once again rumours and innuendo rubbish, Geddes Lane is not closed," he said.
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reported in August that Bennett's venues, including the two-hatted Vue de monde, had been discreetly offered to other restaurateurs at bargain-bin prices.
However, Mr Bennett said any suggestion his restaurants were for sale was "absolute rubbish" and that those who said otherwise were "f---ing liars".
Vue Group's former chief executive Andrew Skinner said the company had been in conversations with potential buyers who had approached it, but strongly denied the restaurants were being actively shopped around.
"The company is fully solvent and able to meet all its obligations … [and] Vue de monde is not for sale – it is the crown jewel in our suite of brands," he said.
Mr Skinner and Vue Group's chief operating officer Tom Little both left the embattled business suddenly last month.