Universal has reshuffled the portfolio, taking up residence in the Palace of Haymarket, and calling an end to play at the Bat & Ball in Redfern.

Built 1877, the Palace is one of three three-storey heritage Sydney buildings at the intersection of George and Hay streets, both directions now closed to vehicles.

For decades it has been the domain of Paul Walker and a stalwart of the southern CBD. Its significance paved the way for it to be the first venue in Sydney to be granted an exemption to the crippling lockout laws.

The Kospetas family’s pub group, centred in the Sydney CBD, keeps a mix of freeholds and leases.

Taking over this month, Universal has secured a new 30-year lease at the Palace, replete with “significant” upside potential. 

“There is tremendous value to be unlocked given the hotel’s incredible location and 24-hour licence, which was being underutilised,” says group CEO Harris Kospetas.  

“We’ve already hit the ground running with new furniture and equipment, and have already made significant improvements to the hotel’s food, beverage, entertainment and gaming offerings.”

The group intends to leverage its significant experience in heritage restorations to return the Palace “to the glory” befitting its near-150-year legacy.

“An application is already in to expand the hotel’s already large alfresco dining area, which will see it take full advantage of its corner and better integrate it with the George Street pedestrian boulevard,” continues Kospetas.  

The new digs come as the group enters a new phase in the sector, for the first time leasing out one of its hotels, Redfern’s Bat & Ball, acquired in early 2022 for around $10 million.

The incoming tenants are achieving their own milestone, fulfilling a long-held ambition to add a pub to their history and hospitality portfolio in the inner west, and Universal offer they saw potential for their ambitious plans to “take the raw bones” and elevate it into something unique.

Stepping up at the Bat is a team boasting Daniel McBride and Dynn Szmulewicz, owners of Enmore Country Club, The Little Guy and The Sunshine Inn, along with Rachael Paul, former Sunshine Inn venue manager, Cameron Votano, co-owner and executive chef of BTB Kirribilli, and Zac Godbolt, co-founder of Enmore Country Club.

Harris says passing on the operation will allow Universal to focus on its larger venues and upcoming renovation plans.

“We’re delighted to partner with Dynn, Dan and their team. We’ve been fans of their venues for some time and are excited to watch them add their mark to the pub.” 

Built in 1929 on the corner of Cleveland and South Dowling streets, the former Duke of Cleveland has become synonymous with sporting events courtesy of its proximity to both the Sydney Football Stadium and Sydney Cricket Ground.

This augers perfectly with plans to create a sports-focused local, “with character”, and renovations are underway.  

Paul says they have all worked together over the years, and as the curtains are drawn on the Sunshine Inn the group achieves the dream pub, slated to open late July.

“It’s been a goal of the collective to find a pub together, and the old school bones and rich history of the Bat & Ball really ticked all the boxes.”

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