Madame Brussels sold: Iconic Melbourne bar to remain open under new ownership
Melbourne CBD bar institution Madame Brussels — thought to be a Covid casualty — will continue to operate under new ownership.
The leasehold of the rooftop site at 3/59 Bourke St has changed hands from the trio who established the iconic drink spot to fellow Melbourne hospitality heavyweights Tom Rattigan and Joshua Stevens, who run Double Happiness, New Gold Mountain and Lily Blacks.
Mr Rattigan said the sale was still being finalised but the plan was to reopen “the next day” once contracts were inked in the next couple of weeks.
“It’s a great bar that’s been around for a long time and my partner (Mr Stevens) and I have always enjoyed visiting, so when we heard it was up for sale we inquired about it,” he said.
“We’ll operate it as it has been and build on the existing legacy”.
Melburnians will be able to expect “the same great service that Madame Brussels is known for with an enhanced food offering”.
Mr Rattigan’s other venues will reopen on Friday at 5pm, following the end of Melbourne’s lockdown once the clock ticks over to midnight on October 22.
“We’ve managed fine and the staff are very much looking forward to getting back behind the bar,” he said.
“The City of Melbourne is very vibrant, and has been at all of the five reopenings, whenever lockdowns have finished the city has been very vibrant with people keen to get back in there drinking and eating and the City of Melbourne has been very supportive of its businesses.”
CRE Brokers’ Lloyd Nunn said the Madame Brussels leasehold, with two years remaining and a further four-year extension, was snapped up for $160,000.
“It will continue as is. There’s nothing wrong with the brand — and it’s almost Covid-proof with that huge outdoor deck area,” Mr Nunn said.
Paula Scholes (who goes by Miss Pearls), Michael Anderson and Vernon Chalker (who died last year) established Madame Brussels 16 years ago and ran it until July.
Ms Scholes told the Herald Sun at the time she was “devastated” to shut but couldn’t afford to stay open, with her business partner making the painful call to close.
It is understood it became too difficult to run the business in the wake of Mr Chalker’s death.
Mr Rattigan and Mr Stevens offloaded two of their other bars, Pixel Alley and Mr Wow’s Emporium to Cherry Bar’s James Young in August to focus on their new opportunity.
That was a “buy one get one free” $100,000 deal, Mr Nunn said.
“The only reason they were cheap is they’re a very short lease at three years,” he said.
Pixel Alley features retro video games beneath the other venue on Smith St.
Former Sydney Swans player Craig Braddy has taken over Ascot Vale’s Laurel Hotel and will also run it as it has been, but Mr Nunn could not comment on details of the transaction.
“It’s a massive venue. The Ascot Vale Hotel, which I sold, is doing really well down the road from it. The big pubs are doing very, very well,” Mr Nunn said.
“The biggest thing is the government grants have been absolutely fantastic. There are not many venues closing down right now. The grants have done exactly what they’re meant to do and kept venues going. They’ve been brilliant.”
Mr Nunn said “the only two problems” venues were going to have were staffing and managing the front door for patrons’ vaccination status.
He said venues were “working their arses off” to open this weekend, with Melbourne’s lockdown due to end at midnight on October 22.
“Venues can’t wait. It’s going to be very, very busy up until Christmas,” Mr Nunn said.
“Normally after Christmas you get that drop in January, February; it didn’t happen this year and it’s not going to happen next year, because people are still reluctant to travel but they still have a lot of cash and they’re still going to go out and go down to their local.”
Mr Nunn, who runs Bar Sales Melbourne, said “a lot of small bars” were changing hands, and also pointed towards the sale of the leasehold of Belgrave’s Micawber Tavern for $250,000.
He said the CBD wasn’t “as good as it could be” but 90 per cent of landlords had worked with venues on rent reductions, which was “good to see”.
The remaining businesses “will probably go under sooner or later and it will be the landlord’s fault for not dropping the rent or working with the tenant”.
“There has been a drop in rent across the board. You can’t get 5 per cent rental increases year on year for the past 10 years — there had to be a correction, and that’s what Covid’s done.”
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