Merivale boss Justin Hemmes splashes $120 million-plus on pubs in two months

Justin Hemmes at Home

Justin Hemmes and his Merivale business have been on a spending spree these past two months. Picture: Darren Leigh Roberts.

Hospitality billionaire Justin Hemmes has embarked on one of the biggest pub shopping sprees seen in recent memory.

The owner of Sydney hospitality group Merivale has spent in excess of $120 million on six venues in just the past two months, including its first venue on the state’s south coast and its first establishment in Victoria.

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The acquisitions add to the 80 pubs and restaurants already owned by Merivale, which has a reputation for turning outdated hotels across Sydney into sophisticated venues.

Tomasetti House, Melbourne — $43 million

Tomasetti House is located on Flinders Lane in Melbourne. Picture: Google Maps.

The $43 million acquisition in April of Melbourne’s Tomasetti House is the biggest known purchase made by Merivale during the past two months.

The eight-storey building on Flinders Lane was purchased from the Millett family at the end of April. It had been home to the Mill House Bar and Restaurant and a glamorous backpacker hostel.

Plans for what the venue will look like under Merivale’s control will be revealed later this when settlement takes place.

Speaking about the purchase, Mr Hemmes told The Australian he had big plans to expand and was 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,” he said.

Cheeky Monkey, Byron Bay — $13.5 million

Real Estate

Cheeky Monkey’s bar has been purchased by Merivale.

Last week Merivale confirmed it had purchased Cheeky Monkey’s Bar at 115 Johnson St for about $13.5 million.

It had long been on the hunt for a site in Byron Bay, which has seen property soar off the back of cashed up Sydneysiders and Melburnians moving to the tourist hot spot during the pandemic.

The property, which was previously owned by Red Rock Leisure and also had an adjoining massage spa, will reopen as a restaurant and bar later this year, with Merivale to soon announce further details.

Norton’s Irish Pub, Leichhardt — $24 million

Norton’s Irish Pub had been owned by Peter Walker for five years.

Hemmes made a $24 million acquisition of Norton’s Irish Pub on the corner of Norton St and Parramatta Rd in Leichhardt.

Norton’s Irish Pub joins his Merivale Group’s inner west establishments The Vic On The Park in Marrickville, Queens Hotel in Enmore and the 3 Weeds in Rozelle.

Merivale has confirmed the pub will continue to trade as normal for the time being, but future plans on any shake up to the establishment will be announced in due course.

It had been owned by hotelier Peter Walker who paid $14.5 million in 2016.

Lorne Hotel, Lorne — $38 million

Supplied Editorial Merivale has bought the Lorne Hotel

The Lorne Hotel is an iconic pub in Victoria.

Hours after signing on the dotted line on Norton’s Irish Pub, Hemmes agreed to pay $38 million for the iconic Lorne Hotel on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

The venue is Merivale’s second venue in Victoria after the $43 million purchase of Tomasetti House.

The 145-year-old Lorne Hotel is one of the best-known pubs in Victoria and has a function room, accommodation and a large outdoor space.

It had been owned for nearly 20 years by the Upham family, who will hand the keys over to Merivale later this year.

Burns Philp Building basement — Price undisclosed

Exterior of historic Burns Philp Sydney headquarters in Bridge Street.
NSW / Building / Exterior

The basement of the historic Burns Philp building in Sydney is expected to be turned into a restaurant and bar.

It was revealed in April that Hemmes’ Merivale had purchased the basement space previously occupied by Fratelli Fresh in the historic Burns Philp Building.

The prime piece of Bridge St real estate in Sydney is around the corner from Merivale’s well-known Establishment venue and Mr Wong restaurant.

No plans have been revealed for the site, but it is expected to be a restaurant and bar.

Quarterdeck Hotel, Narooma — $1 million

Merivale’s first south coast acquisition was made at the end of March with the purchase of The Quarterdeck in Narooma.

The Australian reported earlier last month that Hemmes paid about $1 million for the tiki bar.

The local institution sits on the Narooma waterfront and is due to fall under the Merivale name in the coming months.