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Canberra institution Wig and Pen to close at end of month

Ian Bushnell 10 December 2018 78

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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78 Responses to
Canberra institution Wig and Pen to close at end of month
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8:06 pm 10 Dec 18

Some fancy pants lawyer should buy it n keep the icon alive

8:06 pm 10 Dec 18

Noooooo, i only just found you again. You could move to Belco. We need you.

8:02 pm 10 Dec 18

Ant Hooper, gonna miss those Ploughman's lunches!

7:59 pm 10 Dec 18

Jan De Kock should’ve gone while you had the chance

7:50 pm 10 Dec 18

Natasha Wallace Parker ahh memories

7:48 pm 10 Dec 18

Luke Johnson sort it out

7:39 pm 10 Dec 18

Thomas end of an era!

7:29 pm 10 Dec 18

Michael Brown time to invest

7:28 pm 10 Dec 18

Tim Scoggins what a shame.

7:25 pm 10 Dec 18

Reem, following your experience last night...

    8:25 pm 10 Dec 18

    Not surprised at this. I actually said to everyone last night that I’d be surprised if they were still open when the next show happened.

7:14 pm 10 Dec 18

See what happens Wilhelm you leave town Thilo Fobes?!

    7:15 pm 10 Dec 18

    I think it says a lot about me that my phone autocorrected “when” to “Wilhelm”

    9:23 pm 10 Dec 18

    So you're saying I should buy the place and come back on an investors visa. Think those are 5 million, so better get the Kickstarter going.

    9:26 pm 10 Dec 18

    I mean, it’s not the worst idea I’ve heard

7:06 pm 10 Dec 18

Very sad! And so out of the way...

7:05 pm 10 Dec 18

Alan Stuchbery Samantha career?

6:59 pm 10 Dec 18

Jess Ed maybe because you're leaving?

6:44 pm 10 Dec 18

NOOOO! Stephen Beresford!

6:29 pm 10 Dec 18

Well that’s a bugger,going to miss those great dark beers.

6:28 pm 10 Dec 18

Another part of the wig and pen has done quite well. Just goes to show..

6:23 pm 10 Dec 18

Well that's the worst bit of news I've read today. What a bloody shame - one of the best pubs in Canberra.

Capital Retro 6:11 pm 10 Dec 18

Perhaps they should have been brewing cider instead.

Beer has really lost its former popularity.

6:07 pm 10 Dec 18

All these businesses closing what’s this tell the government

    9:35 pm 10 Dec 18

    Leo Mastoris do you think going to ANU was a good move ? Can’t blame govt for that.

    9:47 pm 10 Dec 18

    Stavro Dascarolis maybe not but the cost of general life is going up and up no one can afford to go to these places

    9:51 pm 10 Dec 18

    Leo Mastoris Aren’t we the lucky ones. 👍

    7:09 am 11 Dec 18

    Leo Mastoris maybe to keep pushing ahead with its managed population growth strategy for Canberra, invest in infrastructure and transport to make sure we have good quality of life when we hit those targets! The rest is up to the business owner.

    9:04 am 11 Dec 18

    Frederica Heacock ppl can’t afford to go out which means no targets ppl will be forced to use the tram petrol will go up there is less and less parking and what is there will be to much to pay

    12:03 pm 11 Dec 18

    Leo Mastoris or... our population continues to grow at the current positive rate, people use the tram because it eases traffic congestion and they have more disposable income as a result. There are many positives.


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