Universal Hotels has clinched another Oxford Street icon – it’s biggest to date – settling on the once-thriving now dormant Midnight Shift.

The acquisitive pub group now holds title on four Oxford Street pubs, in a clear play to invest in and dominate the recently lacklustre precinct.

Located on the lower end of the strip, more proximate to Hyde Park, The Shift is reputed to have been the first gay bar in the State, characterised in the 80s and 90s by moustache-sporting leather-clad clientele.

The long-time owners have had the venue on the market for over a year and have now finally settled with Universal Hotels.

Universal first considered investing in Oxford Street whilst looking into the Shift opportunity. The group subsequently went on to buy Riversdale’s Kinselas in May 2017, then the Brighton Hotel in October, and Pelathon’s Oxford Hotel in December.

Both Kinselas and Midnight Shift are freeholds with large capacity, the former around 600 pax, the latter 1000 people. The Brighton and Oxford are both long leases.

Managing Director Jim Kospetas believes strongly that the famous late-night strip is on the cusp of a resurgence, although potentially with a revised marketing plan that focuses on a universal approach that is open to all. A diverse mix of offerings involving fun and an inviting take on food, unique beverage offerings and entertainment is key to revitalising the once-thriving precinct.

Universal has reversed the all-welcome concept Pelathon had run at the Oxford, bringing back the rainbow, with adornments such as a big spray-painted mural of George Michael by artist Scotty Marsh, and the former drag shows and cabaret shows up in Gingers Lounge.

“For us, it’s just basically trying to revitalise the area. Darlinghurst is such a massive channel out to the eastern suburbs, for transport and basically everything.”

Kospetas says they are planning “a new direction” for the famous gay bar, likely offering more of an open-to-everybody approach, and a greater focus on food & bev on street level. The upstairs club space will be suitably gentrified and ‘multi-faceted’ for use as a performance space or functions.

“Our push is to give each venue a different offering, but also to revitalise the area and bring people back to Oxford Street. It’s such an amazing precinct, so close to the city.

“Where previously the world was gay venues or not, now you’ve got to be open to everybody. Open it up to what Oxford Street is these days.”

The slow-burning deal was brokered by Stefan Ippilito and Michael Marano of Oxford Property Group, which specialises in commercial transactions in the area. Marano says the sale was a boon for all involved.

“It was a good result for both sides, and for Oxford Street. I think both parties were happy, and I’m pleased with what Stef and I achieved there.

“The sales of Oxford Street are improving. It has become evident in the last six months.”

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