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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
Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 8:06 pm 10 Dec 18

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

Jube Mann Jube Mann 8:06 pm 10 Dec 18

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

Adnan Asger Ali Adnan Asger Ali 8:02 pm 10 Dec 18

Ant Hooper, gonna miss those Ploughman's lunches!

Sophie Willis Sophie Willis 7:59 pm 10 Dec 18

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

    Jan De Kock Jan De Kock 8:10 pm 10 Dec 18

    the wig and pen had no idea what it's missing out on, lucky them

Sarah Lloyd Sarah Lloyd 7:50 pm 10 Dec 18

Natasha Wallace Parker ahh memories

    Natasha Wallace Parker Natasha Wallace Parker 1:28 pm 11 Dec 18

    Sarah Lloyd are you going to buy it?!!!!

Bryn Marshall Bryn Marshall 7:48 pm 10 Dec 18

Luke Johnson sort it out

Samantha Khaw Samantha Khaw 7:39 pm 10 Dec 18

Thomas end of an era!

Michael Mcdougall Michael Mcdougall 7:29 pm 10 Dec 18

Michael Brown time to invest

Dave Barwick Dave Barwick 7:28 pm 10 Dec 18

Tim Scoggins what a shame.

Matt Cracknell Matt Cracknell 7:25 pm 10 Dec 18

Reem, following your experience last night...

    Reem Cracknell Reem Cracknell 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.

Elle Louise Elle Louise 7:14 pm 10 Dec 18

See what happens Wilhelm you leave town Thilo Fobes?!

    Elle Louise Elle Louise 7:15 pm 10 Dec 18

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

    Thilo Fobes Thilo Fobes 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.

    Elle Louise Elle Louise 9:26 pm 10 Dec 18

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

Jason Duarte Jason Duarte 7:06 pm 10 Dec 18

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

Nicole Lustenberger Nicole Lustenberger 7:05 pm 10 Dec 18

Alan Stuchbery Samantha career?

James Kozanecki James Kozanecki 6:59 pm 10 Dec 18

Jess Ed maybe because you're leaving?

Jen Beresford Jen Beresford 6:44 pm 10 Dec 18

NOOOO! Stephen Beresford!

Paul McDonald Paul McDonald 6:29 pm 10 Dec 18

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

    Tony Ryder Tony Ryder 9:10 pm 10 Dec 18

    So when’s it closing. Do we need to attend the wake?

    Paul McDonald Paul McDonald 9:25 pm 10 Dec 18

    Tony Ryder article says end of month.say end of December,I will be away.

Wayne Palmer Wayne Palmer 6:28 pm 10 Dec 18

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

Shaun Gowing Shaun Gowing 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.

Leo Mastoris Leo Mastoris 6:07 pm 10 Dec 18

All these businesses closing what’s this tell the government

    Stavro Dascarolis Stavro Dascarolis 9:35 pm 10 Dec 18

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

    Leo Mastoris Leo Mastoris 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

    Stavro Dascarolis Stavro Dascarolis 9:51 pm 10 Dec 18

    Leo Mastoris Aren’t we the lucky ones. 👍

    Frederica Heacock Frederica Heacock 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.

    Leo Mastoris Leo Mastoris 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

    Frederica Heacock Frederica Heacock 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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