Merivale is headed south of the border with an interstate location of its Bondi hotspot, Totti’s, set to open on the Victorian surf coast next year. The takeover of the beachside Lorne Hotel will mark the first time the Justin Hemmes empire has successfully sprawled its tendrils into the southern state, despite backlash from Melbourne’s hospitality industry.

Per Broadsheet, the billionaire hospo titan snapped up the Lorne Hotel back in 2021 shortly after buying Tomasetti House in Melbourne’s CBD. Merivale has left the looming coastal drinking hole largely untouched until it announced the ground floor will be transformed into a Totti’s Italian restaurant — the fourth in the group’s catalogue.

For what it’s worth, Tomasetti House is still listed as “currently closed” but Merivale apparently has plans to open a Chinese restaurant there later next year.

Hemmes’ attempts to enter the Victorian hospo leagues haven’t tracked well for him in the past. Merivale was forced to abandon the Melbourne version of its Merivale At Home meal packs in 2020 after the local industry slammed it for taking up space while venues were struggling to survive through the city’s extensive lockdowns.

Merivale admitted it was an “oversight” on its behalf and would “hold off” until Melbourne’s hospitality industry was back up and running again.

The takeover of the Lorne pub is unsurprising, though. If there was anywhere a billionaire hospitality mogul was going to try and launch in a staunchly protective space, a popular coastal town where house prices are in the millions is the way in.

Totti’s Lorne will be headed up by Matt Germanchis, who has worked at Movida, The Press Club and Pandora in the city. The Victorian Merivale outpost will showcase the surf coast area’s producers and fishmongers alongside Totti’s favourites like wood-fired, puffy balloon bread and housemade pasta.

You can expect the new eatery to launch at the Lorne Hotel in late summer.

Image: Instagram / @lornehotelview / Supplied / Steve Woodburn