Baron of the Bay: How billionaire publican Justin Hemmes will transform Byron’s nightlife after purchasing a massive block of land for a $50million ‘mega venue’

Justin Hemmes is renowned for transforming Sydney’s pub culture, owning over 80 bars and restaurants in New South Wales.

Now, the Merivale boss is making his first moves in Byron Bay, finalising a $50million deal to take over the Mercato Precinct and adjoining development site.

The billionaire publican is said to be planning a $20million redevelopment of the Mercato to create a ‘mega venue’ similar to his Ivy and Coogee Pavilion venues in Sydney.

Baron of the Bay: Merivale founder Justin Hemmes (pictured) is renowned for transforming Sydney’s nightlife. Now, he’s making a move into Byron Bay

The Mercato precinct already offers visitors a dining and entertainment experience, but Justin could be looking to start from scratch on the 1.1 hectare combined site.

The vacant land spans 4,128sqm and has a flexible B2 Local Centre zoning, allowing for a wide range of mixed-use development including retail, residential and hotels.

His new holding is located directly opposite rival pub The Northern – one of just three major pubs operating in Byron Bay.

New buy: The billionaire publican is finalising a $50million deal to take over the Mercato Precinct and adjoining 4,128sqm development site

New buy: The billionaire publican is finalising a $50million deal to take over the Mercato Precinct and adjoining 4,128sqm development site

The Byron Pav? Justin is said to be planning a $20million redevelopment of the Mercato to create a 'mega venue' similar to his Ivy and Coogee Pavilion venues in Sydney

The Byron Pav? Justin is said to be planning a $20million redevelopment of the Mercato to create a ‘mega venue’ similar to his Ivy and Coogee Pavilion venues in Sydney

The Byron Bay property market has become a hotspot for investors during the pandemic, as they clamour to own a slice of Australia’s hottest travel destination. 

It’s clear the Merivale Group are determined to expand out of Sydney – all of their recent purchases have been outside the Harbour city.

The town’s value is only expected to soar once international tourists again return to Australia. 

Makeover: The Jonson Street land has a flexible B2 Local Centre zoning, allowing for a wide range of mixed-use development including retail, residential and hotels

Makeover: The Jonson Street land has a flexible B2 Local Centre zoning, allowing for a wide range of mixed-use development including retail, residential and hotels

'Mega venue': His new holding is located directly opposite rival pub The Northern - one of just three major pubs operating in Byron Bay

‘Mega venue’: His new holding is located directly opposite rival pub The Northern – one of just three major pubs operating in Byron Bay

However, there has also been a local rebellion, with locals refusing to sell to cashed-up investors, despite big offers. 

In March however, neither Justin nor his pub-baron-rival Stu Laundy could offer enough money to secure the Bangalow Hotel, which is 14km inland from Byron Bay. 

The rivals became locked in a bidding war for the 60-year-old pub, which is owned by NRL star Tom Mooney and wife Cathryn.

Luxury life: Hemmes is often portrayed in the media with a playboy lifestyle reputation and has an estimated net worth of $1.06 billion, in the 2019 Rich List

Luxury life: Hemmes is often portrayed in the media with a playboy lifestyle reputation and has an estimated net worth of $1.06 billion, in the 2019 Rich List

Byron Battle: Stu Laundy (left) and Justin were said to be in a fierce battle to buy the iconic Pacific Hotel in Yamba, close to the New South Wales coastal town of Byron Bay back in March

Byron battle: It comes months after a handful of rejected offers to buy some of Byron Bay’s landmark pubs. Stu Laundy (pictured) and Justin were said to be in a fierce battle to buy the iconic Pacific Hotel in Yamba, close to Byron Bay

The top bid reached a staggering $50million. 

In 2015, Justin turned the Coogee Pavilion into one of the Eastern Suburbs’ most popular nightlife destinations.

He changed the name from Beach Palace and splurged $12million into refurbishments that included an outdoor area.

Developments continued in January last year, with fine-dining restaurant Mimi’s opening on the venue’s second floor.

Doing it again! Back in 2015, Hemmes transformed Coogee Pavilion venue into one of the Eastern Suburbs most popular hotspots. Pictured: September 2013

Doing it again! Back in 2015, Hemmes transformed Coogee Pavilion venue into one of the Eastern Suburbs most popular hotspots. Pictured: September 2013 

Makeover: He changed the venue's name from Beach Palace to Coogee Pavilion and splurged $12million into refurbishments which included an outdoor area. Pictured: December 2020

Makeover: He changed the venue’s name from Beach Palace to Coogee Pavilion and splurged $12million into refurbishments which included an outdoor area. Pictured: December 2020

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