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Canberra institution Wig and Pen to close at end of month

By Ian Bushnell 10 December 2018 129

First beers at the ANU site in 2015. Owner Lachlan McOmish on the right. Photo: Facebook.

Wig and Pen Tavern and Brewery owner Lachlan McOmish is calling time on the award-winning Canberra institution, saying the move to the ANU has proven too costly and he can no longer afford to keep propping it up.

Confirming the Wig and Pen will close at the end of December, Mr McOmish said it was a dark Christmas for the 16 staff, who were ‘gutted’.

He said it was a real shame because as a business the Wig and Pen, with its 16 craft beers, had put Canberra on the brewing map, and with 25 years’ experience it was an entry position for people training to go into this industry.

“We’ve done wonderful things for Canberra,” he said.

The entrance to the ANU School of Music, with the Wig and Pen on the left. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Named the best small brewery in the country at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards, the Wig and Pen ranked No.4 on TripAdvisor among 25 attractions in Canberra and paved the way for other ACT micro-brewers, such as BentSpoke and Capital Brewing.

Mr McOmish said the forced move in 2014 from Canberra House in Civic due to redevelopment had seen delay after delay, as well as problems with the fit-out, that had cost the business dearly.

The Wig and Pen, which opened in 1994, closed its doors in September 2014 and was expected to reopen at Llewellyn Hall the next month, but it wasn’t until January 2015 that it could do so. But the problems did not stop there.

Mr McOmish said the delays cost the Wig and Pen about three-quarters of its business and it was almost like starting over. It didn’t help to have the Canberra Times publish a letter to the editor claiming the ANU, which had reached out to the Wig and Pen, was no place for a pub.

“It’s been getting better slowly but it’s too long for me, I can’t afford to keep propping it up,” he said.

A quiet afternoon at the Wig and Pen. Photo: George Tsotsos.

The hope is that the business can be sold intact, preserving the jobs and the brand, but if it can’t be sold on that basis then Mr McOmish will sell the brewing equipment separately.

“Going with it by way of sale would be all the IP and labelling, and the Wig and Pen brand is a good brand,” he said.

“What I’m hoping is someone who’s got a bit a bit of capital will come in and say, yes let’s go with it. That would be great. Retain the name, stay on, if it means they’re making some beer to take to another venue that’s good.

“If I was a big operator, I would say run the Wig and Pen and use it to enter all the awards, win as much as you can and then make use of a big contract brewer to make Wig and Pen beer according to the recipe and then sell across your chain of hotels. That’s the way it would work best. It’ll make someone a fortune if they do that.”

It’s not just goodbye to the Wig and Pen for Mr McOmish. At 67 the past few years have taken their toll and he’s also selling his house and retiring to the coast at Potato Point, south of Tuross Head.

He said at present the Wig and Pen would close quietly on 31 December.

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76 Responses to
Canberra institution Wig and Pen to close at end of month
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Vikram Bhatia 8:52 am 13 Dec 18

They should have never moved to Llewelyn Hall

Cat Noir 10:01 am 12 Dec 18

Genevieve well at least we got to hang out there once

Red Nut 8:25 pm 11 Dec 18

My lecturer worked their

Angela Hunter 6:28 pm 11 Dec 18

Whoever forced them out of civic has blood on their hands. What a shame for them and Canberra. And the arsehats who caused this should hang their heads in shame 😒

Marcus Dustin Alim 12:50 pm 11 Dec 18

Tyne Smedley Matilda Cosgrove R.I.P. for you guys

Bea Gasanova 12:38 pm 11 Dec 18

Red I think I just found your career change!

Bronte Cunningham 9:23 am 11 Dec 18

Kyle Drover 😞 I’m actually sad

Sean Bishop 8:03 am 11 Dec 18

Sell it to ANU. They'd be able to start a degree and drink in classes

Julian Clarke 6:50 am 11 Dec 18

David Cattle You didn't go there enough

    David Cattle 10:46 pm 11 Dec 18

    Julian Clarke I know. So I should go every day until they do close. You coming back for a last one?

Scott Lang 5:34 am 11 Dec 18

That's really sad. Thank you to Lachie and the staff for your hard work and friendliness.

Bernard Wassmann 4:13 am 11 Dec 18

Jamie Stewart Simon Peternel the times we had at this place. Sad to see it close.

    Jamie Stewart 10:49 am 11 Dec 18

    Bernard aww mate end of an era. Should pop in and see if you can get the pogs or tazos they had stuck on the roof as keepsakes. Pumpkin beers and Russian stouts. Whooo, you could see through time with those babies!

Alex R. Cassie 4:04 am 11 Dec 18

Lisa Kathleen so sad but not unexpected after the move

George Brenan 12:40 am 11 Dec 18

It was a poor location

Daniel Greiss 11:06 pm 10 Dec 18

Coolies i know you love this place :(

Marc Kelly 10:15 pm 10 Dec 18

Son, I am disappoint. Donald Alan Ward

Teresa BRx 9:58 pm 10 Dec 18

WTF Canberra!

Jane Lofts 9:38 pm 10 Dec 18

Reem Cracknell we’ll have to pop over this week before you go on leave!

Thomas Jackson 9:22 pm 10 Dec 18

Giuseppe Russo Charles Keilar time to buy our pub

Bernard Houlihan 9:22 pm 10 Dec 18

Very Very sad news, have got many great memories of by time in the original drinking the amazing black velvet

Tony Ryder 9:13 pm 10 Dec 18

Raymond Diack here is an opportunity

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