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Hemmes Set To Unleash Merivale Magic On Coogee

By Angela Faherty on June 3, 2014 in News

Photo: Rebecca Gibbs

Photo: Rebecca Gibbs

Coogee’s beachfront looks set for a touch of Merivale magic when the hospitality company’s chief executive officer, Justin Hemmes, opens his new venture on the site of the former Beach Palace Hotel at the end of May.

Mr Hemmes announced in early April that he had acquired the iconic hotel, adding to an already impressive and burgeoning property portfolio. The beachside property, which covers 1,500 square metres and spans three levels, has been undergoing renovations since the takeover and should be open by the time this edition of The Beast hits the streets.

While Mr Hemmes is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding the plans for the former Beach Palace, he has confirmed it will be called the Coogee Pavilion in a nod to its glorious past and will be a community-focused establishment with a strong emphasis on food, arts and culture.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Merivale,” Mr Hemmes said.

“There are very few iconic beachside venues like this in Australia, both in terms of scale and location. I’m extremely passionate about this property and really excited about opening something special for the local community and Sydney. I want this to be part of the local community, part of the Coogee experience and part of the coastal experience. I want this to be a place that locals are proud of,” he said.

Mr Hemmes said he will initially be testing the waters with the dining options available, gradually evolving the space to cater to the needs and demands of the public, but he has confirmed there will be a permanent florist stationed on site, as well as stalls offering takeaway coffee and juices. He has also insisted that while alcohol will be available, the Pavilion will not be a pub or hotel and he also ruled out speculation that he will be building an additional storey or developing the property into an apartment complex.

The Pavilion will initially open with a pop-up food market offering a host of eating options on the ground floor of the establishment, with the upper levels being developed slowly over time. Seafood will feature heavily in the offering, with an oyster bar, fish and chips and sashimi available, in a style that Mr Hemmes has referred to as “a more developed offering of our Fish Shop in Potts Point”.

Mr Hemmes has stressed that accessibility and affordability are key to the development, and that he will draw on the experience offered at his other establishments, with gourmet burgers, wood fired pizzas, and a cocktail bar providing “fresh but not over-kicked seaside cocktails”.

He also outlined future plans to eventually open a growers’ market offering local fresh produce on the site, and even hinted at the possibility of opening a yoga studio and hosting temporary art exhibitions further down the line.

The news that Merivale has arrived in Coogee has been broadly welcomed by the local community. Nicola Ekas, general manager, sales and marketing at C.Inc Pty Ltd, the owners of the nearby Coogee Bay Hotel, said the news that Merivale is developing the site can only be a good thing for the local area.

“We are really excited to welcome any good operators to Coogee. Competition is always healthy and the more good operators there are, the better the precinct will be. Our objective has always been to drive new people to Coogee and we are excited for our neighbour to open again. The more people coming to Coogee, the better,” she said.

Nearby Beach Street resident Jonathan Barritt also welcomed the development.

“The Beach Palace is a great space in a fantastic location, but it has struggled in recent times, so it would be great to see it restored to its former glory. A farmers’ market selling fresh local produce would be a great addition to Coogee and the focus on food and arts would help inject a new lease of life into the local community,” he said.