Sydney billionaire Justin Hemmes is expanding south, announcing he will open his first Merivale venue in Melbourne later this year.
Located at the historic Tomasetti House at 277 Flinders Lane in the heart of Melbourne's CBD dining district, the acquisition marks the beginning of a new era for the hospitality tsar, who owns more than 70 Sydney pubs, restaurants and bars. Hemmes' new property will be Merivale's first venture outside of NSW, and only the second outside Sydney.
"[Melbourne's] local hospitality industry is one of the best in the world; brimming with creative culinary talent and supported by a passionate community of diners," Hemmes said. "We are honoured to open our first venue in Melbourne, and cannot wait to work alongside so many local industry greats."
Hemmes also acknowledged the "terrible" suffering the Melbourne CBD has undergone over the past year. "We are committed to doing everything we can to help reinvigorate the city and support it in its road to recovery," he said.
Although he did not rule out international expansion in years to come, the boss of venues including Ivy, Mr Wong and the Coogee Pavilion committed to continued investment in Australia's hospitality industry.
"The last 12 months has certainly reinforced that there is simply no place like home. I am energised by Australia's collective appreciation for our own backyard and am extremely passionate about continuing to invest in an industry that defines so much of our vibrant culture."
While Merivale has not disclosed the purchase sum, The Australian Financial Review, owned by the same company as this masthead, wrote that the Merivale boss had secured the Flinders Lane purchase from the Millett Group for over $40 million. The space is in the heart of Melbourne's food scene and is currently home to the Millet Group's Mill House Bar and Restaurant, a go-to destination in the city.
A spokesperson for Merivale said the group was yet to decide what the site would become under Hemmes' ownership.
Merivale's expansion into Melbourne has been predicted for some time, although last month's purchase of the Quarterdeck in Narooma on the NSW south coast surprised the industry.
Earlier this month, Merivale doubled down on its Sydney CBD holdings by acquiring the strata basement space where Fratelli Fresh previously traded in the historic Burns Philp & Co. building for an undisclosed price. The Quarterdeck in Narooma was purchased in March for an undisclosed sum.
Hemmes credited the boom in domestic tourism as the catalyst behind the south-coast decision.
"One of the silver linings to come out of the last year is a heightened appreciation for our own backyard, an excitement to explore our spectacular country and its coastline," he said to Good Food at the time.