Former Spotless boss Bruce Dixon looks set to buy some of Sydney's most famous bars

Cargo Bar in Sydney. Source: Facebook.

Some of Sydney’s best known bars and restaurants, including Cargo Bar, Bungalow 8 and Kingsleys Woolloomooloo may have new owners soon after receivers Ferrier Hodgson announced the Dixon Hospitality as preferred bidders for seven venues in the failed Keystone Group.

Bruce Dixon’s Melbourne-based business has been on its own massive expansion in recent years and now has 37 venues, including a number of Sydney pubs, such as Queenies, The Norfolk and Forresters in Surry Hills and The Oxford in Petershem, as well as the historic South Melbourne gastropub O’Connell’s and Toorak’s 505 Wine Room.

Dixon Hospitality is also behind House of Crabs in Redfern and St Kilda and the Beer DeLuxe chain.

Bruce Dixon is the former CEO of the cleaning and catering contractor Spotless. He stepped down at the end of last year having taken the business to a $1 billion float on the ASX.

He started Dixon hospitality with his son Michael in 2012 and late last year bought the 16-venue Open Door Pub Co., which includes the Melbourne Venue Company.

Earlier this year, the pair announced they were opening a 1,000sqm restaurant and bar Tower 1 at Sydney’s Barangaroo, as well as a Cuban/art deco-inspired rooftop bar in an adjacent building.

Receiver Morgan Kelly from Ferrier Hodgson said today that the sale of the seven venues – Cargo Bar, Bungalow 8, The Rook, Winery, Manly Wine, Chophouse Sydney, and Kingsleys Woolloomooloo – is subject to due diligence.

“Dixon Group representatives will this week commence meetings with management of the venues,” he said.

“We are also in final stage negotiations with separate bidders for the sale of the remaining venues.”

Kelly said the decision to separate the Keystone Group assets for sale was taken to maximise sale proceeds.

“Through the competitive bid process run by CBRE Hotels, it became clear that prospective buyers were most interested in specific venues that strategically aligned with their own businesses,” he said.

Sydney-based Keystone Group, which had 17 venues worth an estimated $100 million, including Jamie’s Italian restaurants in several state capitals, was placed in receivership by its lenders in June this year.

The company blamed debt used to expand the business, as well as Sydney’s lockout laws, for the failure of the group.

Keystone launched just before the 2000 Olympics when managing director John Duncan opened Cargo Bar. In 2014, Duncan launched a takeover of the publicly-owned Pacific Restaurant Group, bringing Kingsleys restaurants in Sydney and Brisbane, the Chophouse in Sydney and Perth, and Jamie’s Italian into the fold.

The receiver said all the businesses were “continuing to operate on a business as usual basis”.

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