By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

The powerhouse Victorian pub group have gone full steam ahead with the purchase of The Esplanade Hotel.

Sand Hill Road have followed up the construction of their mega-pub, Garden State Hotel, with the off-market purchase of arguably one of Australia’s most famous pubs The Esplanade Hotel – or The Espy, as it’s better known.

The Sand Hill Road directors approached The Espy’s Vince Sofo and Paul Adamo, who have owned the pub since 2000 and negotiated the sale – the details of which have not been divulged – all without an agent.

“They weren’t giving The Espy up to anybody, without knowing what our plans would be and who we were as people. So it took a while, just chatting and spending a lot of time there together and eventually it worked out it was the right move for them and the right move for us. It was really amicable. There were no agents involved or intermediaries, just us and them sitting down – so we’re stoked. It was really done in The Espy style,” said Andy Mullins, one of Sand Hill Road’s directors.

The Espy has been closed since 2015, as Sofo and Adamo began work on an extensive renovation of the pub, which was to include a new rooftop bar.

Mullins said he and his partners were excited to get stuck into the plans for the Espy, but would first listen to the community, local council, the music industry, and other stakeholders who are all very passionate about the iconic venue.

“One of the things Vince and Paul said to us was ‘Boys, you need to remember that as much as you’ve bought The Espy, you’ll never own it’. It’s so a true. Ever since it got out there that it’s us, it’s been reinforced time and time again, that the Espy is one of those very rare pubs where its community, its city, probably even nationally, it’s owned by all the people that made it.

“It’s an interesting feeling. There’s nothing but a very strong sense of custodianship and legacy that we’ve got to pick it up and carry it on now. We’ve got to in some ways reinvent it and in some ways not. We’ve got to be really careful about balancing that line. It’s exciting though.”

Once consultation with various interest groups has been completed, Sand Hill Road will get stuck into renovation plans immediately. They hope to have the pub reopen in late October 2018.

“I know no one wants to hear that, because we want to know that it’s going to open tomorrow, but it’s a work site at the moment. There are no bars, there are no toilets – it’s a demolition site. There’s a lot of work to do but we can’t wait to get into it.”

In a separate off-market transaction, Sand Hill Road have also purchased the Waterside Hotel in Melbourne’s CBD, which will the group will begin to trade immediately once they take over in July. Sand Hill Road plans to renovate the venue once The Espy is reopened.

To read more of the evolution of Sand Hill Road, keep any eye out for the June issue of Australian Hotelier next month, when we look into the next phase of this evolving pub group.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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