Restaurateur Nick Zampelis has sold the luxury Collins Street nightclub Silk Road for a price believed to be more than $3 million.
The deal comes as Melbourne's restaurant and nightclub industry continues to struggle with tough trading conditions that are pushing operators to the wall and causing a number of high-profile venues to be sold off or closed.
Mr Zampelis, whose hospitality empire has included more than 60 eateries and bars, opened Silk Road in 2008 after spending up to $10million on a luxury refurbishment.
Silk Road - an opulent three-level complex with a restaurant, eight bars and two private suites - has been an exclusive playground for the rich and famous, including Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Jason Statham.
Industry sources say the leasehold for Silk Road, which is located in the former Shakespeare Hotel, has likely sold for between $3 million and $3.5 million. But Mr Zampelis denied the club had been sold. "It's not unconditional. We are considering a number of offers and we're hoping to get more than the figure you're saying."
In 2010, Shane Warne and Hawthorn star Dermott Brereton nearly paid $3.5 million for a stake in the club, but the cricketing legend chose instead to open Club 23 in Crown. The new buyer is believed to be associated with Atlantic Group V, a venue and event management company that runs the Atlantic restaurant in Crown and a host of spaces in the Central Pier sheds in Docklands.
The directors of Atlantic Group are Hatem Saleh, Tony Schiavello and Olga Kostovski. Mr Saleh is a joint shareholder along with Schiavello (Vic) Pty, a subsidiary of construction group Schiavello. Mr Saleh denied Atlantic Group was the purchaser.
Mr Zampelis has reportedly closed or sold off six restaurants in the past six months. "We build, we operate and then we sell them off. That's what we do," he said. "Silk Road has been very good to us but we've kept it longer than our other venues. We're selling our bars to focus more on the restaurant side."
In 2010, Mr Zampelis and Crown Casino became embroiled in a bitter legal dispute over the loss of two leases for his restaurants Cafe Greco and Waterfront.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that Crown management had violated a verbal agreement to allow Mr Zampelis to continue to rent the prime spaces after spending $6million on a refurbishment. Instead, Crown ejected Mr Zampelis and rented the space to Atlantic Group, which opened its flagship restaurant. firstname.lastname@example.org