Sand Hill Road will re-open Hotel Esplanade, affectionately known across Australia as The Espy, in November.

The iconic live music pub in St Kilda has been closed since 2015, and was purchased by Sand Hill Road off previous owners Vince Sofo and Paul Adamo early last year. Since then, director Andy Mullins has not forgotten what Sofo and Adamo told him when the purchase was made official.

“They said that we might have bought The Espy, but we’d never really own it. It belongs to the people of Melbourne. We have always loved the pub, but we know that it holds a special place in many different hearts for many different reasons. There’s no other pub like it in Australia.”

The four directors behind Sand Hill Road have spent a considerable amount of time since making the purchase in researching the history of the 140-year old pub, as well as talking to locals and other community stakeholders about their memories and experiences at the venue, and what they wanted from the hotel when it reopened.

The group has worked with Techne Architects to create a reimagined venue that not only brings back the renowned live music and art scene of the hotel, but also houses several new entertainment and F&B offerings for the community. Described as “kick-arse Victorian grandeur”, the venue’s overall aesthetic is reminiscent of a 19th century retreat, with each space still having its own identity.

A new Hotel Esplanade

Where many spaces within the sprawling venue were underutilised in the past, Sand Hill Road has taken full advantage in its design, creating several new experiences for visitors to enjoy. These include three different stages for live music and art performances/installations; the main public bar; a garden terrace; casual dining kitchen; a Cantonese restaurant and adjoining cocktail bar; as well as a rooftop bar.

The food offering for the venue is being led by executive chef Ash Hicks out of the main Espy Kitchen. The 60-strong kitchen team will put out fare from charcoal grills, pizza ovens and rotisseries, while snacks like hot dogs will be served from carts around the venue. Mya Tiger, the Cantonese restaurant, will highlight the cuisine’s classic dishes, with roast duck as the hero. The drinks program will be led by group bars manager Kevin Peters and group sommelier Matt Skinner.

Arts and music will still serve as a key offering of the hotel, with three different stages constructed throughout the venue to cater to eclectic music performances. Rockwiz creator Peter Bain-Hogg will curate the various acts as The Espy’s entertainment manager.

“We want The Espy to be a destination for music-lovers from Melbourne, Australia, and all over the world,” says Bain-Hogg.

“A trusted venue where they will be able to hear leading local and international artists, and see up and coming artists cut their teeth.”

A cultural program will also be curated by the venue’s artistic director, Janenne Willis.

“We’re not trying to please one market, that’s not The Espy. We’re going all out to create a world-class cocktail bar, and then only 27 stairs away have 800 people looking out to the ocean, drinking beers and smashing pizzas or heading into a gig at one of the stages inside,” states Mullins.

“Different types of people, there for different reasons, day and night. That’s always been The Espy – a melting pot of Melbourne.”

With over 300 jobs expected to be created for The Espy, Sand Hill Road is in the process of a significant recruitment drive for the venue. The group is looking for people with roles in food and beverage, sales and marketing, and music and arts. Anyone looking to register their interest in working at the venue can do so here.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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