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June 8, 2023

Karen’s Diner’s closure isn’t a mystery, it’s marketing

The same company is opening a new concept in the same space next week. Sorry to be a buzzkill.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Graphic: Jayde Vandborg

The first article popped up on CityMag’s social media feed on Sunday:

Karen’s Diner Has Suddenly Shut 3 Of Its Aussie Restaurants & The Timing Is… Interesting

Pop culture website Pedestrian reported that Karen’s Diner, the “problem child of the Australian hospitality industry” (Pedestrian’s words), had shut three of its pop-up stores – namely, in Surfers Paradise, Perth and Melbourne.

A few hours later, the news popped up in our feed again, this time via The Project.

The following days brought additional posts of the same story from 10 News First Perth, Melbourne and Queensland, as well as 7NEWS Gold Coast and, we’re sure, a handful of other outlets.

Spurred on, we assume, by all this virality, Adelaide’s own The Advertiser was prompted on Tuesday to go and check the local Karen’s Diner, on East Terrace, and found:

Infamous Karen’s Diner in Adelaide appears to be closed after interstate locations shut doors

The stories recounted not only the Karen’s Diner closures, but also the controversies the chain had gathered during its time in operation – including instances of staff allegedly suffering various forms of workplace abuse.

Some also reported that the parent company behind Karen’s Diner, Viral Ventures (Australia) Pty Ltd, had gone into liquidation.

Most of this news is not surprising.

Pop-up restaurants operated by a business with ‘viral’ in the name are obviously intended to be short-term concepts. Karen’s closure was always planned.

Viral Ventures has been operating the space at 6 East Terrace some time, hosting a cavalcade of strange and sometimes intriguing dining and drinking experiences.

The Viral Group website lists some experiences on its website that might be familiar to out-and-about Adelaideans: Karen’s Diner, The Alice (with an Alice in Wonderland theme), and Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (with a slightly different Alice in Wonderland Theme).

The East Terrace location has also hosted Pitch Black, a dining in the dark concept; The Magical World of Teletubbies (an I-don’t-really-know concept); and Abba-, Grease-, Britney Spears drag-, Harry Potter-, and Harry Styles-themed events.

As a new round of social media posts about Karen’s supposed demise hit our social media feeds, a press release dropped into CityMag’s inbox:

You Have Been Summoned To The Wizard’s Den

A new bar, soon to open at 6 East Terrace.

Where might one find some additional information on The Wizard’s Den?

The timing of Karen’s Diner’s winding up is not so surprising after all.

A surprising element of this story is the pop-up dining concept’s continuing presence in the CBD following Viral Ventures (Australia)’s liquidation.

Viral Ventures co-founder Aden Levin told Business New Australia he had “closed a few of the stores as noted and liquidated that subsidiary entity” but “the other group entities running events and some venues will continue trading as normal, as well as the overseas operation”.

CityMag shot off a quick email to the PR company asking who would be operating The Wizard’s Den when it opens next week, and they confirmed it would be The Viral Group, rather than the liquidated Viral Ventures (Australia).

As for how a limited-time dining concept gathered so much attention for closing down as it was always intended to do, we can only commend Viral Ventures and Viral Group on knowing how to do their job.

The Wizard’s Den is running at 6 East Terrace, Adelaide from Thursday, 15 June. The bar will host two wizard-themed cocktail-making sessions each day from Thursday to Sunday.

To purchase a ticket, head here.

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