Reason behind burger joint’s collapse
The CBD venue of one of Sydney’s most iconic burger chains closed its doors forever this week, with Mary’s Castlereagh St location breaking the news via a paper sign.
“Closed 4eva,” it read.
“Thank you to every one of you.”
Taped to the front door of the venue, the note did little to explain the reason behind the surprise closure.
The chain’s website briefly removed the CBD restaurant from its location list, then reinstated it with a comment advising that they were “relocating to a bigger space”.
“More news to follow!” it read.
Prior to this, patrons past and present were quick to speculate about possible reasons for closure after pictures of the CBD restaurant’s sign were posted to Reddit on Tuesday.
Many blamed the rising cost of living, citing the “dramatically” rising costs of wages, supplies and rent.
“Look at the amount of hospitality businesses that have shut down in the recent past,” one person wrote.
The four remaining burger restaurants average an impressive rating of 4.18 stars (out of 5) from nearly 4000 combined Google reviews.
In recent years, the establishment came under fire after past employees made allegations of a toxic work culture, with one former manager claiming he worked more than 60 hours per week.
Mary’s Group also attracted public scrutiny for controversial comments made by the chain’s owners, Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham.
Over the past decade the duo have established their own burger empire across Sydney, opening up their first Mary’s in Newtown, followed by restaurants in Circular Quay, Castle Hill and the Entertainment Quarter.
Founding the Mary’s Group, Smyth and Graham also own The Lansdowne and The Unicorn hotels.
Perhaps to their own detriment, the pair also forayed into the podcast space, beginning The Fat – A Mary’s Podcast in June 2020.
In an episode published in November that year, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, the owners lamented how attitudes of younger workers made it “almost impossible to run a business now without offending somebody”.
Mr Smyth criticised “whiny” 20-year-olds for reporting negative behaviour in the hospitality sector, having believed people of his generation suffered worse in their youth – Smyth himself had his first job at the Singleton McDonald’s at the tender age of 14.
He also said work-life balance was “one of the most dangerous terms young people have been introduced to”.
“I thought the whole idea was trying to find a f**king job that you loved … that’s your work-life balance,” he said on the show.
Calling some young workers in the industry “self-entitled f**ks”, Smyth went on to say that he had been “pushing back … pretty hard” on employee complaints regarding working conditions and taking time off.
After mounting public backlash, the duo released a statement apologising to Mary’s Group workers who were offended by the comments, acknowledging widespread “mental health pressures” were rife in the industry.
So, how did a repurposed STD clinic in Newtown land us here?
As previously mentioned, that is where the story of Mary’s began, with Smyth and Graham opening their first burger joint on Mary St in Sydney’s inner west in 2013.
In 2015, they reopened The Unicorn Hotel on Oxford St in Paddington and then The Lansdowne Hotel in Chippendale in 2017, to which a pizzeria was added the following year, appropriately named Mary’s Pizzeria.
Mary’s Underground, situated beneath the restaurant’s Circular Quay location, re-established the space formerly occupied by live music venue The Basement as a popular restaurant and jazz bar, hosting a variety of artists every week.
Mary’s Group is yet to confirm when or where its relocated CBD restaurant will open, having closed its Castlereagh St joint after nine years.
NCA NewsWire has contacted Mary’s Group for comment.