Esplanade Hotel (Melbourne)

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Hotel Esplanade
The Esplanade Hotel on The Esplanade in St Kilda (1).jpg
General information
Address11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, Victoria, Australia
Coordinates37°51′51″S 144°58′22″E / 37.86417°S 144.97278°E / -37.86417; 144.97278
OpenedJanuary 7th, 1878[1][2]

Hotel Esplanade is a five level seaside pub located on St Kilda’s Esplanade. It features two restaurants, The Espy Kitchen and Mya Tiger, three live music stages including the iconic Gershwin Room, a whopping twelve bars, and is a significant landmark of St Kilda. It is commonly known locally as "The Espy".

Reopened in 2018 by the Sand Hill Road Group. Hotel Esplanade remains the longest running live music venue in Australia.


The Esplanade Hotel circa 1885

The hotel was built in 1878[2] and remains one of the earliest, largest and most prominent 19th-century resort hotels in Victoria. Originally intended to be three large terraces, the building was altered to become a hotel during construction, and became one of the premier hotels in Melbourne outside the city. Alterations were made in 1921 changing it from exclusive residential use for the wealthy to incorporate entertainment for the middle classes, with the addition at the ground floor of a grand staircase and lounge bar.

Between 1920 and 1925, the "Eastern Tent Ballroom" constructed to the rear of the site became an important jazz venue and dance venue, then the main entertainment district in Melbourne. In the 1970s, the Hotel's Gershwin Room, a grand dining room, was turned into a disco - complete with flashing Saturday Night Fever-style dance floor. The Esplanade Hotel was classified by the National Trust of Australia in October 1990.[3].

The hotel was bought by Carlton and United Breweries in 1995 and then by Becton Corporation in 1997 with plans to develop a large residential and retail complex on the site. Redevelopment plans have been met with community opposition supporting the Espy's role in Melbourne culture and independent music scene. Becton's proposal for the 35 storey residential complex resulted in 9,000 residents registering objections and the trade union movement threatening to boycott construction if the pub was demolished. [4]

In 2001 Becton put out to tender the lease for just the Espy Hotel. The Lewis/Comey/Esplanade Alliance bid was pipped by former nightclub operators Paul Adamo and Vince Sofo (previous Chevron nightclub owners). They attempted to sell the lease in early 2014, but did not receive a suitable offer. They closed the hotel suddenly on Sunday 17 May 2015, with the Gershwin Room used occasionally for special gigs. Renovations commenced, progressing extremely slowly until coming to a complete halt.

In May 2017 The Espy was sold yet again, to (privately owned) Melbourne based hospitality group Sand Hill Road, who have extensive experience operating hotels since 2000. This time The Espy’s fortunes changed for the better, with a new lease of life. After an extensive renovation, Sand Hill Road reopened the venue on Friday, 23 November 2018.


The Esplanade Hotel is the longest continuously running live music venue in Australia.[5] In May 1995, Paul Kelly recorded tracks for his album, Live at the Continental and the Esplanade (1996), in the hotel's Gershwin Room.[6] Since 2005, the SBS music quiz show RocKwiz has been filmed in the same room. Show host Julia Zemiro used to work at the hotel as a waitress.

Notable residents and visitors[edit]

The Esplanade Hotel was the home of wealthy philanthropist and National Gallery of Victoria benefactor Alfred Felton from 1892 until his death in 1904. The hotel also hosted many famous visitors, including Mark Twain in the 1880s, and actress Sarah Bernhardt in 1920.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MEMORANDA". The Telegraph, St Kilda, Prahran and South Yarra Guardian (831). Victoria, Australia. 12 January 1878. p. 3. Retrieved 16 February 2017 – via National Library of Australia., ...The handsome new hotel lately erected on the St. Kilda Esplanade, and called the Esplanade Hotel, was formally opened on Monday. It is erected on the site of the old Criterion Hotel...
  2. ^ a b c "Esplanade Hotel". Retrieved on 9 August 2009
  3. ^ Esplanade Hotel /Other Names:Baymour Court Flats , Carlyon's Esplanade Hotel , The Espy /Location: 11 - 12 The Esplanade, ST KILDA, PORT PHILLIP CITY /File Number:B6136, Victorian Heritage Database
  4. ^ "Esplanade Hotel". The Melbourne Magazine. 2005-09-27. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  5. ^ Cashmere, Paul (2008-10-21). "The Espy Turns 130". Retrieved 2008-10-28.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Blanda, Eva (October 2003). "The Recordings of Paul Kelly as a Solo Artist". Other People's Houses. Australian Music Web Site. Archived from the original on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  • "SBS: Summer / Autumn" by David Knox, TV Tonight, (23 September 2010)

External links[edit]