In On the Market by Clyde Mooney

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Trudie and Lee Hilliar are looking to a change, listing their thriving Australia Hotel in hot property Cessnock, 50 kilometres west of Newcastle.

The Hilliars have held three pubs in Cessnock, buying the Aussie from Alan and Helen Moyles in 2015, who had owned it since 2000.

“Even when I had other hotels I still went there and drank beer,” recalls Lee. “Alan and Helen did a good show.

“We’re off the main street and fairly well isolated from any main competitors.”

The Moyles’ plans for another pub, the Royal Federal, saw Lee and Trudie “very fortunate” to get in at the right time. The Moyles have since sold the Royal, but still own the Stag and Hunter in Mayfield.

Getting on for two decades in the area, a quarter-century in the industry due to a couple of sneaky years serving beers as a minor at the Tatts Hotel Blaney, Lee thinks it’s time to take a break and look around.

“I love pouring beer, that’s the best part of my job, and chatting to the guys during the day behind the bar.

“It was either dig our heels in and stay for another five years, or turn it over and give it to someone and sit back and wait, see if other opportunities come up.

“It’s just time. Seventeen years is enough in the one town, but we’re certainly not lost to the industry.”

The Aussie resides on a 1,672sqm corner block, offering main bar with TAB and Keno, bistro and commercial kitchen, a new gaming room with 14 EGMs, and off-street parking.

The gaming room was completed last November, now providing a smoking solution for all machines, as well as TITO and CRT. The Hotel holds SIA for 20 machines, bringing significant potential to the room, which has already benefited greatly from the new format.

It reports average weekly revenue since the renovation north of $62k, with bar contributing 35 per cent, gaming 34 per cent and foodservice 25 per cent.

Sources suggest a sale price circa $9 million. Last September, Iris Capital bought Cessnock’s Peden’s Hotel for around $10 million.

Lee and Trudie have engaged HTL Property’s Blake Edwards and Deane Moore of Moore & Moore Real Estate to market the asset, with clear upside in its gaming potential.

“After the recent construction of the new gaming room, the average weekly gaming revenue has jumped to $24,000 with only 14 gaming entitlements,” notes Edwards.

The Hotel enjoys a large exclusive catchment of potential customers, just off Cessnock’s main thoroughfare, which offers extensive retail including an ALDI, Coles and Woolworths. Locally-based Moore says it fits the bill of Sydney publicans looking north.

“There is a shortage of good pub opportunities in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong and we have found that buyers are looking further afield for assets.”

The freehold going concern of the Australia Hotel is being sold via a two-stage Expressions of Interest campaign, with stage one of bidding closing 28 March.