Hunter Valley brewery, winery and distillery Hope Estate have lodged plans to create a hospitality venue in the former Newcastle Maritime Museum building after winning the tender for a 50-year lease.

If the City of Newcastle approve the Development Application the Hope at Honeysuckle venue will feature a cellar door and restaurant (where 30 Hope beers will be on tap) and spaces for functions and the likes of beer and wine masterclasses. Mooted for a launch date in the second half of next year, it would be open seven days a week from early morning until late, employ 70 staff and boast a capacity of about 700 patrons.

Hope have budgeted $3,980,000 for the redevelopment, that if approved, will be a major draw card in the 50-hectare Honeysuckle harbourside development. Overseen by the Hunter & Central Coast Development Corporation (HCCDC), the Honeysuckle project is transforming former industrial and maritime land into an entertainment, tourism, employment, and recreation precinct on the edge of Newcastle Harbour. Alongside significant public space, the development will also be home to a new University of Newcastle campus, residential and commercial buildings and an eight-storey, 187-room hotel.

Founded in 1994 in the town of Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley wine region of NSW, Hope Estate have gone on to complement their renowned estate-grown wines with craft beer and spirits production as well as operating a cellar door and functions space, running festivals and hosting an array of acclaimed musical acts via their performance stage and concert amphitheater.

But Hope at Honeysuckle is set to be their first off-site venture and owner Michael Hope told Beer & Brewer the Newcastle expansion would allow them to take advantage of being situated in a more populated location.

Because hosting festivals and concerts, exporting wine to China and supplying on-premise wine, beer and spirits had been such big aspects of Hope’s operations, Michael said they’ve felt the impact of COVID from multiple angles. But none of it has deterred him from pushing on with the Hope at Honeysuckle project despite signing the 50-year lease on February 5, 2020. He said canned beer sales and regional tourism had been significant and had helped the business navigate the last year or so.

“The agent had said to me ‘what do you think (about committing)?’ And I was like ‘mate, full steam ahead’. (COVID) is not going to last forever and for me (having this new venue) was all about diversity and exposure. The power of having people on site, and having them taste, experience and learn about your products gets them closer to you. And it will be really great to be where the people are.”

The building they hope to revitalise has a commanding position on Newcastle’s harbour (see picture below). Their plan is to further capitalise on that by enhancing its approximately 900-square-metres of outside decking with an all-weather, indoor-outdoor dining enclosure that will create an all-new level of outdoor space above it.

With an extensive core range of beers, and on average two new limited release beers landing every month, Hope plan to entirely take over all 30 taps while a recently acquired string in their bow, running a herd of Black Angus cattle which are fed the brewery’s spent grain, will add another dimension to Honeysuckle’s planned casual, tapas-style menu.

“It’s going to be a fantastic space,” Michael said. “I looked at the (50 year tender) and have thought ‘you go to all this trouble you don’t want to be in there for 10 years’. And we’re not a fly-by-night operator. This is my life. It’s got my name on it. We’re just looking forward to seeing it all come together now.”

An aerial view of the Newcastle Maritime Museum building where Hope Estate hope to house their Hope at Honeysuckle venue

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