By Ian Neubauer

Merivale CEO Justin Hemmes has broken his silence over rumours that his NSW hotel group is in financial strife.

“In light of the pathetic rumours floating around our fine city and the article in today’s paper, I wanted to put everyone’s mind at rest that there is no truth to these,” he said yesterday (December 9) in an internal company memo. “We are not in receivership, I am not in jail and no, I’m not pregnant.

“Everything is fine (in fact excellent) on the Merivale ship. It’s clear sailing with no icebergs in these tropical waters.”

The memo referred to a story broken by TheShout last week that cited a Merivale spokesperson denying the company had fallen victim to the economic downturn.

It follows ongoing reports that cuts in corporate and private entertainment spending have significantly reduced receipts at high-end bars around Australia.

However, liquor suppliers to ivy — Hemme’s $150 million luxury-entertainment complex at which bikini-clad models are paid $35 per hour to appear around a rooftop pool — have reported no let up in sales, and there are no shortage of patrons lining up on weekends to pay the hefty $20 cover charge.

But business at Establishment — Hemme’s original pleasure palace on George Street — has been less brisk. Its three-hatted restaurant EST has also been heavily hit, with a significant drop in patronage in recent months.

The status of Merivale’s CBD Hotel is also uncertain. The venue was taken off the market after being unsuccessfully listed for sale for several months with realtor CBRE Richard Ellis. Its listing is thought to be one of the factors that sparked rumours that Hemmes is attempting to divest his smaller properties in order to keep ivy and Establishment afloat.

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The Shout Team

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

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