Hotel mogul Arthur Laundy and his family dynasty have gone head-to-head with hospitality king Justin Hemmes amid a record $2.2billion pub-buying frenzy.

Laundy has acquired full ownership of six landmark hospitality venues in a $150 million deal including Sydney‘s iconic Watsons Bay Hotel.

The purchase will take the Laundy family’s hotel assets to almost 90 venues.

While Justin Hemmes is still considered Australia’s hospitality king with more than 80 venues and billions in assets with names like the Ivy, Queen Chow, hemmesphere and Establishment, 81-year-old Laundy’s latest move is a tilt at that crown.

The third big player on the scene is the Solomon family company Solotel which owns pubs and bars across Sydney and Brisbane and Matt Moran’s award-winning restaurants including Aria, Chiswick and North Bondi Fish.

But Laundy’s latest spend is set to tip investment in hospitality above the record of $2.2b at June 30, 2022, with pub broker HTL predicting annual hotel sales to have nearly doubled from $1.3 billion in 2019.

It follows the Laundy family’s acquisition of the Thomas Blamey Tavern in Wagga Wagga for a record $27m in March last year.

Considered recession and inflation proof investments that are booming while office and retail property have slumped, cash-flow rich hotels and restaurants are hugely sought after – and business is thriving post-Covid.

Laundy family head of business transactions, Stuart Laundy, said their hotels were jam-packed and that the nation had emerged from the pandemic ‘strongly …  and our customers are in a great mood’.

He had earlier cautioned against a rapid introduction of the cashless gaming card in NSW, saying more research and trials were required.

‘A lot of employment is at risk. They need to take their time to get it right’ he said.

The Laundy deal buys out former business partner Fraser Short in the Watsons Bay, Lennox Head and Illawong hotels, plus Northies at Cronulla, Park House, Mona Vale and 32ha The Farm, near Byron Bay, the AFR reported.

Stuart Laundy, said the latest acquisitions made Laundy Hotels probably the biggest seller of draught beer in the country.

Other investors in the pub and restaurant game include foreign exchange trader Adam MacFarlane, who snapped up the Lord Roberts Hotel last year for $22.5m, and former Sydney lord mayor Nelson Meers’ purchase of the Crossroads Hotel in Casula for a record $160m.

The Laundy deal brings total pub sales for just the first five weeks of 2023 to about $330 million.

Last November, Justin Hemmes described the recovery in the hotel industry after the Covid pandemic as ‘extraordinary’, with Sydney-based Merivale expanding interstate during lockdown.

He bought the ornate Tomasetti house in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane for $43m in 2021, and the Lorne Hotel for $37m on the Great Ocean Road.

Hemmes’ assets include the Paddington and Beresford hotels, Mr Wong, Ms G’s, Bar Totti’s and the Collaroy hotel.

The Solotel hospitality group founded in 1986 has more than 20 hotels and bars, plus restaurants including Chophouse Sydney and House Canteen at Circular Quay.

Fourth generation hotelier, CEO Elliot Solomon, who took over in 2021 has overseen diversification of the company’s pubs and bars.

The Solotel group includes iconic pubs like the Kings Cross Hotel, The Golden Sheaf at Double Bay, The Clock Hotel in Surry Hills, the Bank, Courthouse  and Marlborough hotels in Newtown, and the Erskineville Hotel, Darlo Bar, the Opera Bar, and the Edinburgh Castle Hotel in Sydney’s CBD.