ACT News

Wig & Pen to close for Llewellyn Hall move

More than two decades of pint-sized history will come to an end on September 12 when the Wig & Pen pub and brewery in Civic closes its doors for the final time before reopening in the foyer of the Llewellyn Hall in late October.

The Civic pub's owner, Lachlan McOmish, said the much loved venue almost called final drinks last year amid plans to redevelop Canberra House, but a lifeline offer from ANU school of music director Peter Tregear prompted him to consider relocating.   

Andrew Deakins and Anna Trundle from Turner enjoy a Stout at the Wig and Pen on Sunday.
Andrew Deakins and Anna Trundle from Turner enjoy a Stout at the Wig and Pen on Sunday. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"It's business as usual until the final day but we have to be out of here by September 19, which means we have to cease trading on the 12th so we can disassemble the shop," he said.

"The process is underway and it's going to be expensive but we're determined to deliver a first-class venue in a first-class location."

Wig and Pen duty-manager, Finn McGrath in the brew-pub's barrell-aging room.
Wig and Pen duty-manager, Finn McGrath in the brew-pub's barrell-aging room. Photo: Rohan Thomson

It hasn't been the easiest of transitions for Mr McOmish and his team, who discovered getting approval to move a brewery across town into the foyer of a concert hall required a fair share of paperwork.

"The process is a lot more complex than it was when I opened here more than 20 years ago," he said.


"As it is for any business, there's an enormous amount of regulatory planning and requirements and we've been very grateful for the support of the Chief Minister and her staff," he said.

Mr McOmish said the Chief Minister's office had provided basic advice and were curious to see how businesses could operate differently in Canberra.

The new location will allow punters to see the barrel room and brewery alongside the bar, a move Mr McOmish thinks will match the "industrially brutal building" that is Llewellyn Hall.

The pub, which will retain the same name, will be located in the hall's green room and will make the ANU's signature wall a feature of the pub itself.

The wall carried the signatures of Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, words from the Dalai Lama, the inscriptions of Gough Whitlam and Paul Kelly and a Michael Leunig cartoon angel.

Mr McOmish said punters would be able to buy a pint at Llewellyn Hall by the end of October or early November and described the move as positive for Canberra.

"It's good for Canberra because as a city we will now have three small brewers, which means in a city of 350,000 we're the brewing capital of Australia percentage wise," he said.  

"It's good we are all doing different things and not testing the market at the same point as we're more of a traditional pub."

When the move to Llewellyn Hall was foreshadowed by The Canberra Times in June, there was controversy with some pundits claiming the pub wasn't a natural fit for the venue or university and would generate a culture war.

Music-lover Carole Sladen said "the use of the School of Music's premises in this way beggars belief".

But Mr McOmish shrugged off this criticism as unfounded and said critics would soon realise the Wig & Pen was a natural fit at Llewellyn Hall.

"I think that any concerns that have been expressed publicly will be well and truly be met in the new space as not only are we requited to meet the standard rules of premises, the very nature of the Wig & Pen doesn't lend itself to those type of problems," he said.  

"We don't do rock music. The only music performances we've had are classical and jazz in conjunction with the School of Music."

Mr McOmish said he had many happy memories of his time in city, particularly of staff and patrons who had spilled through the doors.

"What I've learnt is that as far as a pub goes there are three things that make a good venue excellent; good product, a nice decor, and most importantly good people," he said. 

Mr McOmish said he planned to retain as many staff as possible during the move although the pub would be unable to employ casuals during the relocation phase.