The Espy Hotel up for sale: Four things you didn’t know about the Melbourne landmark

Melbourne live music icon The Esplanade Hotel is up for sale, with the venue expected to be sold for millions.

Commonly known as “The Espy” to Melburnians, the local haunt is up for grabs through Jones Lang LaSalle, but the owners are keen to retain the freehold title to the venue.

If the current owners retain the freehold title they will keep the land title, but the new owners will own the venue and the income.

The venue, located on the St Kilda foreshore, is expected to be worth over $5 million, according to Fairfax reports.

A long-term lease is on offer for the successful buyer.

A site of controversy

The pub is one of Australia’s longest running live music venues, but was the centre of controversy in late 1990s and the early 2000s as notable property figure Max Beck and later the company he chaired, Becton Group, tried to take over the operations.

Becton Group wanted to turn the site into a residential housing complex, but the plans were met with community objection, with a petition against the plans receiving thousands of signatures.

Early life

Prior to the opening of The Esplanade Hotel, the site had been the home of the New Bath Hotel in 1857 as a resort hotel.

The venue now known as The Esplanade Hotel wasn’t opened on the site until 1878 and since its construction has always been a host of live music events.

Music history

In the 1920s it changed from being exclusively a residential location for the wealthy to incorporate entertainment for the middle classes.

Between 1920 and 1925 it became an important jazz venue in what was Melbourne’s main entertainment destination at the time.

Its reputation as a premium live music venue was firmly established throughout this time and has since progressed through a range of music genres from swing to punk and grunge.

Famous faces

The hotel has attracted a number of famous musicians and Paul Kelly recorded his album Live at theContinental Esplanade at the hotel in 1995.

SBS trivia show RocKwiz has also been filmed since 2005 in The Espy’s Gershwin Room.

In the hotel’s early days famed Australian entrepreneur Alfred Felton is said to have stayed at the Espy between 1892 until he died in 1904.

While it was in use as a resort, famous author Mark Twain also visited the hotel in the 1880s and is thought to have stayed there under his real name, Samuel Clements.  

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