Fraser Short v Justin Hemmes in battle of the bar tsars: He Said/She Said

Fraser Short v Justin Hemmes in battle of the bar tsars: He Said/She Said
Fraser Short v Justin Hemmes in battle of the bar tsars: He Said/She Said

Sydney's top two bar barons, Justin Hemmes and Fraser Short, have really put the foot on the excelerator in their recent expansionary ways.

Providing entertaining, drinking and eating spaces for the cashed-up young folk is a cut-throat business as the darkened, dingy meat tray raffle entertainment spaces of the past turn glamorous alfresco, especially in coastal locations.

Just last week Fraser Short teamed up again with the Laundy family to secure the iconic Northies and Mona Vale hotels.

Justin Hemmes recently transformed the Coogee Beach Palace Hotel, seemingly acquired on delayed settlement terms.

It has certainly been a bull market for the industry with a mix of cool bars and restaurants openings.

Justin Hemmes, who assumed the entrepreneurial mantle from his parents has had the chic watering holes Establishment, Hemmesphere, Tank Night Club, Angel Place, The Slip Inn over the years. Then he undertook the multimillion-dollar Ivy project on George Street.

Fraser Short and then business partner John Duncan set up Cargo Bar at King Street Wharf just in time for the 2000 Olympics - a coup for the pair.

The old schoolmates then opened Bungalow 8, further down the wharf and The Loft cocktail bar.

After opening the Morrison with Sean Connolly in the kitchen, Short then partnered with Arthur Laundy on the Watsons Bay Hotel which has since been refubished and successfully relaunched.

The publican-restaurateurs will soon go head to head in Manly. Justin Hemmes has opened Papi Chulo at the wharf and Short has a separate 350-seat Japanese rock'n'roll bar in the beachside suburb. Short's Daniel-san, the moniker a homage to The Karate Kid film franchise, and the rooftop Dojo at Daniel-san, are the Manly Pacific hotel, set to open next month.

Our property contrarians Jonathan Chancellor and Margie Blok takes sides in tribal Sydney's mostly hospitable battle of the bar tsars. 


I am a huge fan of Justin Hemmes, having known the family for three decades. Not that it helped when trying to get into the ever popular eatery, Mr Wong where the suggested wait was a hour last Wednesday night! Justin gets his love of entrepreneurial property ventures from his inspiring father, Mr John and mother, Merivale. He also gets plenty of design advice from his sister, Bettina.

I've meet Fraser just the once, and he struck me as a blokey live-wire as he entertained his guests out at Watsons Bay one afternoon. His business partner, Arthur Laundy was there too, and he's old-time salt of the earth amid the modern hoteling era. Ofcourse Fraser is the son of 1970s wine bar scene legend, Warwick Short who ran one of the most successful long running wine bars from some 25 years from 1969, the Stoned Crow at Crows Nest.

It all began big time for Fraser Short around the time of the Sydney Olympics with his then burgeoning Keystone Hospitality business, which included the hip venues Cargo Bar, then Bungalow 8. I missed the Fringe Bar, but certainly took in the Gazebo Wine Bar which has been getting a recent refurb. Short certainly hasn't wasted any time building a new empire since splitting with Keystone Hospitality.

Interesting that the print media mentions of Fraser total in the low 100's since his first mention, but 1000's for Justin. 


Hands down, it’s Fraser Short for me. I love what he’s done at the Watsons Bay pub with its spectacular views and harbourside setting that is second to none.  

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Wato, where as a tiny child it was a treat for our family to to eat fish ‘n’ chips at the Ozone Café (now Doyle’s restaurant) on Friday nights.  

While Short has done wonders with the Wato pub, he has retained the intrinsic simplicity of the original seaside fishing village in its design. Without any pretentions to latest fads in other parts of the world, it is modern and appropriate.

Another winning feature is the food of chef Pete Evans who heads up the hotel’s catering and events.

On a vast harbour beach front site, this landmark hotel complex has 32 accommodation rooms, a public bar and a restaurant, as well as several function rooms including the Sunset Room. One of Sydney’s best wedding venues, The Sunset Room was designed by architect Jeremy Bull (of Alexander and Co) who worked with Short on the revival of his city pub, The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room in George Street. 

I have no doubt Short and his team will bring their vision and design flair to Northies and the Mona Vale pub. Apparently Fraser Short gained a degree in interior design before becoming a hotelier.

Hotel He Said/she Said

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