Queanbeyan Central Cafe closes as owners go into voluntary administration

Sue Whelan OAM, outside the closed Central Cafe in Monaro Street, says Queanbeyan businesses are doing it tough. Photo: Elesa Kurtz
Sue Whelan OAM, outside the closed Central Cafe in Monaro Street, says Queanbeyan businesses are doing it tough. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

It was the place to grab hot chips and gravy before shopping at Youngs and where many a footballer would challenge his mates to finish off the giant 'Mixed Grill' plate - but the Central Cafe in Queanbeyan has closed its doors.

Alam Investments Pty Ltd - the owner of Central Cafe - has entered voluntary liquidation, with RSM Australia appointed as liquidators.

The cafe has had a 'Closed' sign on the front door since late March. Auction house Pickles confirmed it had undertaken an initial evaluation of furnishings inside the cafe but had not been given instructions from RSM Australia in terms of the sale of those items.

It's a sad day for Queanbeyan and the end of a 40-year era for the iconic cafe, whose monster-sized meals and friendly atmosphere had a reputation that extended internationally.

The kitchen sits empty at the Central Cafe. Photo: Elliot Williams

The kitchen sits empty at the Central Cafe. Photo: Elliot Williams

Alam Investments Pty Ltd purchased the Central Cafe from the Mastoris family in 2015. Former owner Steve Mastoris said he was "very sad" to hear the news of the cafe's closure and described his nine-year ownership of the cafe as "wonderful".

Another former owner, Victor Prineas, who established the Central Cafe in Gungahlin after selling the Queanbeyan restaurant in 2006, also said he was saddened by the news.

The Central Cafe, formerly a milkbar, opened on Monaro Street in 1979. It was a time when the eastern end of the main street was bustling, with the Nova Cinema just a few doors down and Youngs Arcade a busy entrance to the Youngs Department Store.

The newly-refurbished Queanbeyan Leagues Club was just across the road and the Central's sister cafe - The Paragon - was also packed.

In more recent times, Central Cafe was famous for its huge meals, the king of which was the Mixed Grill.

The mixed grill, held by waitress Kristie Cooper, was a challenge for many customers over the years. Photo: Marina Neil

The mixed grill, held by waitress Kristie Cooper, was a challenge for many customers over the years. Photo: Marina Neil

For $33.90, the Mixed Grill included a giant plate of steak, pork chop, sausages, lambs fry, ham steak, rissole, bacon and chicken schnitzel.

It wasn't uncommon for one of the cafe's signature omelettes to hang over the edges of the plate, and hot chips were standard on all breakfast meals, including Eggs Benedict.

The cafe has had more than a few famous faces as customers over the years, including in the early 1980s when a very young Canberra Raiders side would train at Seiffert Oval and head to Central Cafe for dinner afterwards.

Then Treasurer Joe Hockey visited the cafe in 2015 to spruik the government's commitment to assisting small business nationwide. Whether or not he attempted the Mixed Grill while there is unknown.

Queanbeyan Business Enterprise Centre chair Sue Whelan described the news of Central Cafe's closure as "astounding".

"The Central Cafe's been an integral part of the Queanbeyan community fabric forever," Ms Whelan said.

"But businesses in Queanbeyan are struggling and have been for a while.

"There needs to be a strategy to revitalise the whole CBD and that's not just putting trees and nice parks in, but actively drawing people to visit and shop on Monaro Street."

The new cinema planned for Queanbeyan would help, she said, but admitted that the city's restaurants "are in a catch 22", with most people visiting Canberra to shop and then staying there to eat out of convenience.