Justin Hemmes’s Merivale Group buys Byron Bay Cheeky Monkey

Byron Bay’s Cheeky Monkey’s bar and restaurant has sold for $13.5 million. Picture: Supplied by JLL
Byron Bay’s Cheeky Monkey’s bar and restaurant has sold for $13.5 million. Picture: Supplied by JLL

Sydney hotel magnate Justin Hemmes’s Merivale Group has expanded into Byron Bay with the long rumoured acquisition of Cheeky Monkey’s Bar for around $13.5m.

Merivale, which has been on a $200m-plus, acquisition spree across two states of late, said it had acquired 115 Johnson Street, Byron Bay, as its first venue for the Far North Coast.

The property, which was previously owned by Red Rock Leisure and home to Cheeky Monkey’s Bar and adjoining massage spa, will reopen as a restaurant and bar later this year, with Merivale to soon announce further details.

“I’ve been going to Byron since I was ten years old, so it has always been a place close to my heart. I can’t wait to open our first venue on the North Coast and spend more time in the area.

“There’s simply no place like it,” Mr Hemmes said.

He will take over the property later this week having spent months scouring Byron Bay for opportunities including the Sun Hotel which was recently sold to another party by cashed up coal baron Brian Flannery.

JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group brokered the off-market sale of Cheeky Monkey’s venue. The vacant premises previously held the Cheeky Monkey’s backpacker’s nightclub and the Thai Sabai tenancy.

It occupies a 827sqm site with 2am trading approvals and sits in the town centre on Jonson Street and amidst a swathe of new township defining developments in the precinct.

JLL managing director John Musca, who negotiated the sale, said there was “a measured, exciting development evolution in Byron Bay at present, and it’s fitting that community-sensitive operators of Merivale’s calibre are choosing to add their world-class brand to the township’s hospitality landscape”.

Bryon Bay’s growing popularity is starting have an impact on commercial property prices with many big brands looking to open stores in the popular tourist town. Picture: Getty

JLL also negotiated the $120m sale of the Mercato Shopping Centre, Palace Cinemas and former Woolworths site with plans in place to develop a new four-star hotel, with a private syndicate to undertake the development.

“We’re delighted to have transacted circa $90m of fantastic hospitality assets to the Merivale Group over the past ten weeks in bringing their market-leading and inventive approach to communities and hospitality offers around the country,” Mr Musca suggested.

The Cheeky Monkey’s deal follows the Merivale Group’s purchase of Victoria’s oceanfront Lorne Hotel for $38m, positioning Mr Hemmes as the country’s most active pub buyer.

The move by Merivale gave the company its first operating pub in Victoria and comes weeks after the company purchased Tomasetti House in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane from the Millett family, in a $40m deal.

The Byron Bay swoop also comes hard on the heels of Merivale’s $24m purchase of the Irish-themed Norton’s Irish Pub in Leichhardt in Sydney’s inner west.

With reporting from Ben Wilmot

This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au.