“It is an amazing venue - it's as simple as that,” says Justin Hemmes, CEO of Merivale, speaking about the hospitality group's purchase of the Newport Arms Hotel. A Northern Beaches' favourite, the pub has been operating since 1880 and overlooks the breathtaking, only-in-Sydney beauty of Pittwater.
The acquisition of the Newport Arms follows the success of Coogee Pavilion, another large-scale waterfront venue, which saw Merivale move outside the inner city to create a beachfront hangout for locals. “We want to do the same thing we did at Coogee,” says Hemmes. “Be committed to the local community, and give them a world-class venue. Something they can be proud of, and somewhere to take the whole family.”
Asked what attracted him to take on one of Sydney's favourite pubs, Hemmes says, “The fact that it's on the water, it's the dream job for me. The sheer size of the venue was also an attraction. Having such a large venue means we can try many different things.”
Merivale will take possession of the Newport Arms in May and will put its own stamp on the pub, without making rapid, wholesale change, as was the case in Coogee. Hemmes is keen to point out that the new Newport will retain the charms of the original. “It will still be very family-oriented, but we want to attract all walks of life – we don't want to alienate anyone. We want families, couples on dates, single people hoping to meet other single people. We want three generations of the same family to come.”