Billionaire NSW hospitality baron Justin Hemmes has embarked on a major pub buying spree, swooping on Victoria’s coastal Lorne Hotel in a $38 million deal just hours after agreeing to pay $24 million for the Norton’s Irish Pub in Sydney’s inner west.

Located on the prime corner of Norton Street and Parramatta Road 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.

Meanwhile, the $38 million purchase of the Lorne pub marks the year’s largest Victorian freehold going concern pub transaction to date, said JLL’s John Musca and Will Connolly who oversaw the deal.

Located on the seaside town’s main beach, the Lorne Hotel hosts crowds during the popular Pier to Pub swim and is a key destination on Victoria’s main tourist attractions, the Great Ocean Road.

Merivale purchased the pub from the Upham family who have run the venue for about 20 years.

Mr Hemmes said Merivale will receive the keys to Norton’s next month. The venue will trade as normal, but Merivale plans to refurbish the venue.

The sale comes only two weeks after Mr Hemmes first foray into the tight Melbourne market with the Tomasetti deal.

The national pub market has moved into top gear with up to $1 billion worth of assets changing hands since the end of pandemic-hit 2020.

Later this year, Merivale will reopen the doors to 3 Weeds after an extensive refurbishment and will include the Italian eatery, Totti’s.

“It is such a privilege to be part of Sydney’s vibrant inner west; every suburb has a unique energy, and their local pubs play a special role in shaping their culture,” Mr Hemmes said.

In March Merivale did make its first venture to the NSW South Coast, with the purchase of The Quarterdeck in Narooma.

“Narooma has become my second home and the backdrop to so many of my happiest memories with my family. I think it is one of the most beautiful spots in the world,” Mr Hemmes said at the time of the deal.

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