The Espy sells, Cherry Tree is up for grabs as Melbourne pubs bounce back from the pandemic slump

Australian Venue Co chief executive Paul Waterson, who this week signed a deal to buy eight well-known rental properties from the Sand Hill Road group, said like-for-like sales in his 180-person portfolio were up 12 percent. relative to pre-pandemic levels.

Brunswick Street’s Labor at Vain hotel.Credit:

“Since December of last year, it’s very much caught up,” Waterson said.

City hotels are trading at a similar level to suburban locations, despite the slow return of workers to office towers.

Strong evening trading, especially a lift on Thursday, and weekend customers are boosting CBD hotels, he said.

“Locations are not limited by demand, but by staff capacity,” he said.

Australian Venue Co, backed by private equity giant KKR, restarted a $100 million deal – which had been halted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – to buy a pocket of ground lease from Sand Hill Road.

They include the Espy in St Kilda, Garden State on Flinders Lane, Prahran Hotel, the Terminus Hotel in Abbotsford, Richmond Club Hotel, The Posty, Bridge Hotel and Holliava.

Waterson said the latest Omicron wave of the pandemic will not affect pub-goers. “Every time a wave comes through, we see a lot more resilience.”

“For the first time in three years we are seeing large corporate Christmas parties. We are seeing strong bookings and rather extravagant parties planned for December,” he said.

Sand Hill Road, run by brothers Andy and Matt Mullins, has collected, renovated, bought, sold and built a number of well-known Melbourne pubs.

Andy Mullins said the group still owned and had big plans for the Waterside Hotel on Flinders Street, which was not part of the deal with Australian Venue Co.

“We are committed to a great future in Melbourne hospitality,” said Mullins.

Back in Cremorne, Chris and Penny Hodges, former hotel owners from Britain, have been running the Cherry Tree since 2014 and their lease is still running for a few more years.

Allen wasn’t the only lowlife associated with the pub built on a corner overlooking the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens during the Gold Rush in the 1850s-1860s. Career criminal Squizzy Taylor also apparently jumped the bar and stole 10 shillings from the till in 1908.

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