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Leigh St Wine Room and sister e-store sold

Business

The majority share of Adelaide bar Leigh Street Wine Room and online wine retailer Juice Traders have sold to a silent investor, as the businesses’ founders prepare to move back to Sydney.

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Co-founders Sali and Nathan Sasi have sold 90 per cent of the businesses, for an undisclosed amount, to a South Australian-based private investor.

Sali told InDaily the pair had kept a 10 per cent stake in both companies and that she would continue to run the businesses, using the investment of the sale to help grow Juice Traders’ national footprint.

“Nothing really changes except having more financial backing for growth,” she said.

“I’ll be driving the growth of Juice Traders, obviously with my background in Stylerunner it makes sense for that to be my main focus.”

The entrepreneur, who cut her teeth as the co-founder of multimillion-dollar activewear e-startup Stylerunner, started Juice Traders last year when Leigh Street Wine Room was forced to close its doors in March during South Australia’s first lockdown.

Like many hospitality owners across the country, the Sasis introduced takeaway wines to survive the downturn in customers after only having launched the natural wine bar and seasonal restaurant in 2019.

Leigh Street Wine Room faced further troubles less than 12 months after opening when coronavirus restriction capacity caps and confusion around seated bar dining rules placed the future of the former dry cleaner site in limbo.

A vocal opponent of the Marshall Government’s restrictions on businesses, Sali took to Instagram to label the restrictions in September “a joke” and to call on the government to provide small businesses a “workable model that allows us to continue practising Covid safety whilst remaining financially viable”.

The State Government subsequently changed the rules, allowing the small wine bar to continue to operate.

Six months on, Sali said the pair were able to “breathe easier” for the first time in a year thanks to the businesses sales.

She said the financial backing would primarily be used to enable Juice Traders to scale-up, increasing the number of wines and beers it offered through its online store nationally and moving into event sponsorship.

Sali said while she also hoped to open a bricks-and-mortar bottle shop for the online wine retailer in South Australia, unless the state was able to reduce red tape the company would look to the eastern capital cities to open a physical presence for Juice Traders.

The couple plans to move back to Sydney before their two youngest sons start school in 2022.

The change in owners will also see Sydney born and raised chef Nathan Sasi step out of the kitchen.

Sali said her husband would continue to provide input into Leigh Street Wine Room’s menu but his primary focus would be as the main carer for the couple’s two young children.

She said while the pair had not been looking to sell when they were approached with an offer to purchase the businesses, they’d “always planned” to return to their eastern hometown by 2022 and with commercial backing they were able to move with the knowledge that if another lockdown occurred in SA they would not face losing their house.

“The original plan pre-pandemic was we would live in Sydney, own 100 per cent of LSWR (Leigh Street Wine Room) but have a team who can run and manage the business. However, given the pandemic it changes the circumstances dramatically,” Sali said.

“In Adelaide we can personally take the financial hits when there’s a lockdown … because, naturally, living expenses are cheaper.

“If we’re in Sydney and another lockdown happens it would add an exponential amount of stress and financial pressure to protect it if we’re 100 per cent owners, therefore selling the business and retaining a smaller percentage was the right decision to protect both the business and our team’s job security.”

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