In an anticlimactic twist for Sydney’s live music industry, the fabled and long-closed Hopetoun Hotel has not been sold, and its owner has no immediate intention to reopen it.
Stories emerged on Wednesday that Surry Hills standard The Hopetoun had sold to independent record label owner Adrian Bull, with plans for a big-budget renovation and revival as a live music venue.
“It’s kind of a scary venture to take on but the Hopetoun is iconic and deserves to be treated as such, not boarded up,” Bull was quoted as saying.
“Every time I walked past it shut, I would think ‘How can this not be open for music?’ Someone had to do something. It’s a vital piece of what Sydney was and what it will be again.”
The news sent live music devotees into a spin, reverberating through numerous publications sympathetic to the plight of the beleaguered industry, devastated after years of diminishing returns and then the down-scaling or demise of so many venues subject to the ‘lockout’ laws.
But The Hopetoun’s owners have called no joy.
A statement through Judd Commercial Lawyers, representing title-holders Lion Investment Group P/L, throws serious doubt on Bull’s claims to having bought the pub.
“This is not correct,” stated Judd’s Christian Roberts. “The Hopetoun Hotel has not been sold and has not been sold to Mr Adrian Bull.
“Our client, prior to being informed of the news articles published yesterday, had never heard of Mr Adrian Bull. Our client has never been contacted by Mr Adrian Bull.
“Our client does not know why Mr Bull has made representations to the effect that he has purchased the Hopetoun Hotel when he has not.”
News of the sale broke through a series of comments on Facebook, with Bull replying to speculation he had purchased the heritage hotel.
“And I did. The only thanks I need is you showing up at the bar!”
These comments have since been removed, but not his reaction to someone questioning the purchase.
“You are actually kidding me, right?” said Bull. “… My knee jerk reaction was ‘what does this clown want?, copies of the loan papers!!’”
The Hopetoun Hotel gained a legendary reputation for Australian music, hosting dozens of famous and pre-famous acts, such as Mental As Anything, Cruel Sea, Hoodoo Gurus, You Am I, Sarah Blasko and Paul Kelly & the Coloured Girls.
It last sold in 1997 for $1.5 million – the same year of incorporation of Lion Investment Group.
While whether the property was actually on the market or not seems to be in question, the same thread on Facebook suggested the siblings that own it have been fighting over it in the courts for years.
The venue closed for business in 2009, amid major outcries from music fans.
In 2012 it was put on the heritage register by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, preventing alterations to the façade and much of the interior, and any vertical addition to the structure.
Judd legal report Mr Bull has been invited “to correct the public record and provide an explanation”.
The Australian today reported Bull “was awaiting legal advice before commenting further”.
Attempts to contact Bull have been unsuccessful.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HOPETOUN HOTEL
A hotel was built on the site of the corner of Bourke and Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills somewhere between 1836 and 1839. It was known as the Cookatoo Inn.
In 1860 the name changed to the Sportsman’s Arms.
In 1873 the name changed to the Kilkenny Inn.
In 1885 a new owner renovated the old structure, replacing the original shingles with an iron roof. It was renamed the Great Western Hotel.
In 1890 it was leased to Tooth & Co. The brewer bought the freehold the following year.
Tooth & Co. went on to modernise, fitting a new brick façade featuring contrasting bands of sandstone base, casement windows and the detailed parapet.
It was subsequently renamed in honour of Australia’s first Governor General, Lord Hopetoun.