The full detail has emerged on Laundy Hotel Group’s greenfields brewpub in Marsden Park, western Sydney, which would be more like a production brewery in terms of scale.
Plans lodged with Blacktown City Council say the venue would be accompanied with a “craft brewery” that could produce 12,500 litres of beer (or 250 kegs) per week, if it operated one shift per day, five days a week.
“Its capacity could be tripled by working three shifts per day,” the proposal says.
If production was tripled over a five-day schedule, the brewery would have annual beer volumes of close to two million litres, potentially making it one of Australia’s top ten independent breweries.
“The term ‘craft brewery’ has been adopted… because its capacity is greater than those of many so-called microbreweries now operating in hotels, but far below that of [the] traditional concept of a brewery as a large industrial enterprise,” says the document.
With a total capacity of 2000 people including function spaces, the venue would be the largest brewpub in Australia by some margin.
By way of comparison, newly opened Melbourne brewpub Stomping Ground seats 250.
Not actually craft
A veteran publican, Laundy Hotel Group (LHG) director Arthur Laundy made his first beer-related venture in 2013, acquiring the Quarryman’s Hotel in Pyrmont.
Overseen by son-in-law Nick Tindall, who is general manager of LHG, the Quarryman’s was overhauled into an award-winning 18-tap craft beer venue.
Laundy, who is currently ranked 198 on the BRW Rich 200 List with an estimated fortune of $308 million, has otherwise made his name largely on pubs in Sydney’s western suburbs, many of which have been gaming focused.
He told Australian Brews News the term “craft brewery” was used in the planning documents for Marsden Park only as a descriptor for its size, and it is something of a misnomer for what he has in mind.
“I’m not opening a craft brewery, I’m opening a brewery. I’m not entering the 4 Pines area or any of those, that’s not for me,” he said.
“I want a Tooheys New and Carlton Draught, similar beers to them, at my hotels in the western suburbs.”
PB: Publicans Brew
He confirmed that the working title for his house brand is PB (Publicans Brew), a trade mark he applied to register earlier this month.
“I’m trading there on the fact that I’ve been a publican for a lot of years and I’m a fairly well known publican,” he said.
The beers would be supplied to the other 20 venues currently in his portfolio, in addition to the brewery’s own 70-capacity taproom and the adjoining pub, and to other prominent Sydney publican families he counts as friends, such as the Waughs and Ryans.
“I’ll have the capacity to service myself and half a dozen of my mates,” said Laundy.
Former Bluetongue head brewer and partner in Sydney start-up Quick Draw, Bruce Peachey, advised on the brewery configuration.
“It is intended to establish a tasting bar… at which patrons of the pub can taste the beers brewed on site. People at the tasting bar would be able to have the brewing process explained to them,” the plans say.
“The beer produced would be processed and filled into kegs. It is not proposed to package any of the output in cans or bottles.”
Laundy reaffirmed that his motive for opening the brewery is to make cheaper beer available in his venues.
“I’ve always been a western suburbs publican, and in the areas I operate, like here in Bankstown, I understand it’s a 22 per cent unemployment [rate]. And my beers are cheap – I’m just putting them up now to $5.20 – you can’t buy beers around town for that,” he told TheShout in September.
“I try to keep them low because I know people out here are hurting. So for that reason I’ve thought I’m going to build a brewery, and what I’m after are a good couple of beers that I can regard as price-busters. So if I sell a normal beer for $5.20, I’d like to have beer that I can sell for $4.60 to $4.70.”
He told Australian Brews News that in 55 years of running pubs, he has never been more aware of the impact of the big brewers’ CPI price increases on his patrons.
“It’s affecting them, they can’t afford it,” he said.
The planning documents nevertheless reveal the Marsden Park venue would have a gaming room that could accommodate 30 machines, the maximum allowable threshold in New South Wales.
“The room has been designed to permit smoking. It would have its own bar and amenities and, as noted above, a separate lift from the under-croft parking area,” the document says.
Currently, Marsden Park is a largely rural area with few residents and no other pubs. Its population will swell to 45,000 once development of neighbouring residential estates has been completed.
There is currently no accurate data about the demographic characteristics of people who will live in the pub’s immediate vicinity, according to a social impact assessment prepared for the developer.
“The median weekly household income is likely to be above that median income level for NSW as a whole because most of those residents will have had to satisfy financial institutions that they can afford their new homes,” the document says.
“The closer suburbs include Bidwill (which is one of the more socio-economically disadvantaged areas in NSW) and Hassall Grove (which is less disadvantaged).”
Gamblers don’t drink
Gaming machine turnover in the Blacktown area is the fifth highest out of more than 150 local government areas in NSW, according to the regulator’s 2015-16 Annual Report.
A total of $3.17 billion was gambled that year on Blacktown LGA’s 2800 gaming machines, amounting to $1.13 million per machine.
So Laundy could expect annual gaming turnover – the total value in dollars of bets made on gaming machines – in the region of $33 million at Marsden Park, assuming the maximum 30 machines.
Based on Blacktown LGA’s estimated 2016 population of 340,000, its residents wager $9316 per capita annually.
The average return of all gaming machines in NSW is 90 per cent, so per capita losses in Blacktown amount to $932.
But Laundy argues that introducing more gaming machines to Blacktown is not in conflict with building a brewery in order to save his patrons 50c a schooner.
“I don’t see that as a concern. I find that a lot of people who go into gaming, they’re not that interested in drinking,” he said.
“The gaming machines, people only play them if they want to, don’t they? If they can afford to play them they go and play those. It’s more the drinker that I’m concerned about,” he said.
“I do very well in gaming, I’m the first one to put my hand up. But even though I do very well in gaming, gaming is not my prime mover in the hotel industry. I’m a publican, first and foremost.”
State Significant Development
As required by the NSW Government, the project will be considered independently by the Sydney West Joint Regional Planning Panel, because it is worth more than $20 million.
The social impact of the gaming machines will be considered separately by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.
Laundy said Blacktown City Council had so far been receptive to the project and he is hopeful of getting it across the line.
“I own the closest hotel to it anyway, which is at Plumpton. There are 32,000 houses going into the area. It needs a hotel and if I don’t build it, somebody else will,” he said.