‘I can’t go on’: Illness cruels dining empire
TWO of Queensland's most acclaimed restaurants will close as their owner reveals his agonising battle with multiple sclerosis.
The deeply private Andy Buchanan has been trying to mask signs of the disease, but his condition has deteriorated rapidly, forcing the distressing decision to shut Brisbane fine diner Urbane and its neighbouring restaurant, The Euro.
His adjoining The Laneway bar also will fold.
Mr Buchanan, 45, who opened Urbane in Mary St in 2001 as one of the industry's young guns, now struggles to walk, and can no longer carry plates or drinks due to balance problems.
"If I were to take two beers to a table, they'd be half-empty by the time I got there," he said.
"This week I just knew I couldn't go on, and had to stop fobbing off questions about my leg.
"It's heartbreaking to have to say goodbye."
Mr Buchanan was diagnosed with MS - an incurable progressive illness that attacks the central nervous system - at age 39.
"My wife Jackie and I had been trying for children, we had four IVF attempts, and it was two months after that pressure, plus the stress of running a business," he said.
"I started getting pins and needles in my legs, which was really strange because I'm on my feet 16 hours a day, and a few times I fell over at home.
"But I've always stayed positive because what else do you do - cry yourself to sleep?"
He said Jackie, 41, a Qantas flight attendant, had been "amazing".
"We've been through a hell of a lot, but she has been so resilient and supportive," Mr Buchanan said.
"My priorities have changed - life has become simpler and I'm happiest on my back deck with my family, friends and our dog Poppy."
Mr Buchanan, an ex-Brisbane Grammar School boy who tossed in a university degree in economics to become a bartender, said he wanted to keep working in hospitality.
"It's what I know, but it's about where I fit in now."
Urbane has been a consistent award winner, including this year being named the 14th best restaurant in Australia by the respected French guide Gault & Milau.
It was one of the first in Queensland to employ Michelin-starred chefs, including present husband-and-wife team Andrew Gunn and Amelie Rabaud, as well as Alejandro Cancino and Ryan Squires.
Mr Buchanan said telling his loyal staff on Thursday was "the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life".
"I was very apprehensive, and there were tears, but everyone just accepted it, and I was so touched. They want me to look after myself."
Selling a fully equipped restaurant is not easy, especially when so many new ones are opening, but ultimately the decision to close was taken out of his hands.
"We did talk about selling but it takes time, and time is just something I don't have, so we will go out on a high."
Urbane and The Euro will open for the last time on December 25 for Christmas lunch.