Sydney pub baron Justin Hemmes is set to open his first Melbourne venue after striking a $40 million-plus deal to buy Tomasetti House in the city’s chic Flinders Lane precinct.

Mr Hemmes has confirmed the acquisition of the seven-storey brick and bluestone building from the Sydney-based Millett family.

The hotel tsar will receive keys to the laneway freehold building later this year and will announce plans for the building in due course.

It is Mr Hemmes’ first acquisition outside of his Sydney base where he owns and operates about 70 venues and it will allow his Merivale Group to realise a long-held ambition to grow its franchise in Melbourne.

“Melbourne is a very special city, with a unique energy and an inimitable soul. Its local hospitality industry is one of the best in the world … we are honoured to open our first venue in Melbourne, and cannot wait to work alongside so many local industry greats,” he said.

The iconic Tomasetti House, built in 1853, is recorded by the National Trust and listed as a notable building in the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

The original five-storey warehouse was reworked in 1905 when a new Art Nouveau facade and extra levels were added.

The Millett family has more than doubled its money on the 277-279 Flinders Lane address after they paid Rich-Lister Shesh Ghale $16.2 million for the property in 2014.

The family put the building on the market in February last year but it was withdrawn from sale after the pandemic stuck in March and property markets stalled.

The fully-leased building includes office tenants and retailers with Zomp Shoes on the ground level. The Mill House in the basement is run by the Millett family.

Flinders Lane hosts some of Melbourne’s top venues including the Garden State Hotel, Cumulus Inc, Coda, Tonka, and Chin Chin.

Mr Hemmes said Melbourne’s CBD had “suffered terribly” from the COVID hardships of 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.

In Sydney, Mr Hemmes last week snapped up the strata basement space where Fratelli Fresh previously traded in the historic Burns Philp & Co building in Bridge Street.

This will add to his Sydney CBD-based pubs of the Establishment, the Ivy and Bar Totti’s all in George Street.

He told Good Food recently “our [city] restaurants are stronger than pre-COVID, the nightclubs have opened back up … the local and state governments are doing a great job getting people back into the area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen George Street so fun and active”.

“I’ve always loved [the Bridge Street] site. We’re working on different options, but it’s going to be a restaurant and bar,” he said.

Merivale has also expanded its suburban assets in recent years including the Duke of Gloucester, known as the DOG, in Randwick and The Quarterdeck in Narooma in regional NSW.

HTL Property’s Andrew Jolliffe advised Merivale on the deal.


This story originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the original story here.