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Mice Net : October 2009
72 mice.net opinion Face time the best time for Hemmes Justin Hemmes remembers the Sydney 2000 Olympics with great fondness. Three days before Cathy Freeman ran into the stadium and lit the Olympic Cauldron he had just opened Establishment Hotel on Sydney's George Street. For the next 14 days there felt like there was more gold in the venue's iconic bar than at Sydney Olympic Park. On any night of the week athletes mingled with the party faithful to the wee hours. Inside and outside the streets were alive with the buzz of Olympic fever, corporate entertaining was at an all-time high, and locals and international visitors were celebrating like it was 1999. "It was spectacular, and Sydney really showed its true colours," Justin says. "For me it was one of the most memorable times." And, from an international perspective, he'd like to see more large-scale events like the Olympics held here. "New South Wales really has fallen by the wayside, particularly in comparison to Melbourne. I think we need to be a lot more proactive in getting more of the big sporting events, and the larger cultural events here. I think [Jeff] Kennett did such an incredible job in Victoria. He really drove Melbourne and positioned it as the premier city to host events like the Grand Prix, the [Australian Open] tennis. "I'm such a big fan of Sydney. It's such an incredible city to live, to work, and to play in, and I think that we need to start positioning ourselves as an accessible city for people who want to run events here. And not make it too difficult for them to do so." Fast-forward eight years from the "best ever" Olympic Games and Hemmes was opening his next great venture, Ivy, also on George Street. Since January 2008 new bars and restaurants in Ivy have been coming online in stages. And now, with the launch of the two Ivy penthouses in September this year -- created specifically for the events market (80 to 120 pax) -- Ivy is complete. He now employs about 1200 staff and has a turnover in excess of $70 million a year. It's a big, growing business, and thankfully, Justin says, the future is looking far brighter for the remainder of 2009 with corporate business significantly picking up. "Last year there was definitely a tightening of budgets, particularly when the credit crunch hit. There was definitely an effect across Sydney, as there was around the world. But consumer confidence is certainly higher now. We're seeing a dramatic increase in enquiries and very healthy forward bookings leading up to Christmas. "We've seen stronger business confidence in the past few months, which is also being reflected in our restaurants. The length that people are staying for lunch is increasing. There was a period there where people were coming in at 12.30 and leaving at 1.30. Now we're seeing the longer lunches creeping back in, and seeing people entertaining their clients after lunch as well. "The momentum is coming back which is great to see. I thought it was going to be on a downward trend or a flat trend for longer, but it's now heading in the right direction." Good, good events In recent times Justin Hemmes has been labelled Sydney's young "Bar Tsar". But the addition of Ivy to the Hemmes portfolio, with its myriad of event spaces and restaurants, could very well see that tag change to Mr Meetings, the Earl of Events, or even the Prince of Parties. He has graced the Sydney social pages for many years for his penchant for attending and throwing parties, and has very strong views on not only why Justin Hemmes says nothing else beats the live event. And he's put his future on the line to prove it. STORY BY BRAD FOSTER