What's next for The Espy and Garden State after their sale?

One of Australia's biggest pub groups has bought St Kilda's Hotel Esplanade.
One of Australia's biggest pub groups has bought St Kilda's Hotel Esplanade. Photo: Jason South

After its $15-million-dollar refit by Sand Hill Road in 2018, The Hotel Esplanade has changed hands again, pub giant Australian Venue Co buying the St Kilda icon in a deal that also includes Garden State Hotel in the CBD, the Bridge Hotel in Richmond and Abbotsford's Terminus Hotel.

The deal means Australian Venue Co, backed by US private equity, now runs 211 pubs around Australia.

The new operators say when they take over in late September, they won't change the dining options at The Espy or Garden State, which means their respective restaurants, Mya Tiger and Tippy Tay, will remain.

Mya Tiger is a contemporary Cantonese restaurant within The Hotel Esplanade, which the new owners want to retain.
Mya Tiger is a contemporary Cantonese restaurant within The Hotel Esplanade, which the new owners want to retain. Photo: Simon Schluter

"I think the last thing you'd want to do is mess with what is an incredible formula," says Australian Venue Co CEO Paul Waterson.

But the hospitality group will take over the booking of live acts at The Espy, which has hosted everyone from Paul Kelly to Archie Roach. While the company says it books 60 live acts a week, they're big shoes to fill.

Sand Hill Road's group sommelier, Matt Skinner, will join Australian Venue Co, as will many other management and venue staff, including kitchen teams.

Sand Hill Road's Ash Hicks, Sarah Chan, Kevin Peters and Matt Skinner at The Esplanade Hotel in 2018.
Sand Hill Road's Ash Hicks, Sarah Chan, Kevin Peters and Matt Skinner at The Esplanade Hotel in 2018. Photo: Joe Armao

Australian Venue Co also bought the Apollo Bay Hotel in March. It plans to extend the footprint of the Great Ocean Road pub, which could mean adding a rooftop. However, Waterson says plans are still in their infancy and community consultation will be needed.