Melbourne reunion for bar tsar Justin Hemmes

Tomasetti House will be the site of Hemmes’ first Melbourne venue, with plans to be revealed later this year.  Picture:
Tomasetti House will be the site of Hemmes’ first Melbourne venue, with plans to be revealed later this year. Picture:

Sydney “bar tsar” Justin Hemmes has broken his silence on why he has inexplicably ventured south, buying his first property outside of NSW with the purchase of Melbourne’s historic Tomasetti House in a $40m-plus deal.

Mr Hemmes’s Merivale Group purchased the landmark Flinders Lane property from the Millett family, in what he said was the start of a national expansion for the company.

With 80 or so pubs and restaurants in NSW, Merivale has single-handedly transformed Sydney’s pub culture, specialising in carving sophisticated pubs and eateries out of tired old hotels across the city.

He looks certain to attempt a similar feat at Melbourne’s historic 277-279 Flinders Lane which over the past few years has been used as a backpacker lodge.

“I’ve always enjoyed Melbourne, (particularly) it’s hospitality and culture,” Mr Hemmes told The Australian.

“Mum and Dad had a fashion shop just around the corner from Tomasetti House so it’s fitting, pardon the pun, for our introduction to Melbourne to be in this part of the city,” he said.

“We will continue to expand and I’m very optimistic about the future of the hospitality industry in Australia. I believe we have weathered the worst of the storm and the horizon looks bright.”
Mr Hemmes said he would reveal his plans for the eight-level Tomasetti House, described as a magnificent laneway freehold building, later this year.

The sale was negotiated by HTL Property managing director Andrew Jolliffe.

Justin Hemmes owns around 80 pubs in Sydney. Picture: Getty

Merivale Group looks intent on expanding out of Sydney given its two most recent purchases have been outside the city. It recently bought a tiki bar, The Quarterdeck, in Narooma on the NSW south coast in a $1m deal.

Tomasetti House has most recently been used as a glamorous backpacker hostel, after the Millett family purchased the historic property back in 2014 for $16.2m.

“Melbourne is a very special city, with a unique energy and an inimitable soul,” Mr Hemmes added.

Built in 1853, the ornate Tomasetti House hit the market early last year. It was originally built for flour milling and grain storage and enjoys three street frontages.

Flinders Lane was previously the domain of rag traders and clothes manufacturers and agents say it is now similar to New York’s Chelsea and SoHo districts given it is now synonymous with boutique and high fashion retail outlets as well as Melbourne’s best restaurants and cafes. Tomasetti House is presently leased to a number of different parties including medical practices.

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