In Property by Clyde Mooney

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Balmain Pub Group has confirmed its sale of Balmain’s Town Hall Hotel, and the new owner confirmed he will be mixing things up.

After some speculation, particularly that of the Mayor of (the former) Leichhardt Council, Darcy Byrne, heralding the beloved local pub’s imminent demise, Balmain Pub Group (BPG) has revealed that its Town Hall Hotel has been sold in a property play to a mixed-use property investor with “extensive hospitality expertise”.

The pub brought an all-up price around $8.5 million from an unsolicited offer the Group admit was “too good to refuse”. BPG bought the pub in early 2016, and immediately executed a large renovation it billed as a “complete change”.

The Hotel was built in 1879 and occupies 445 m² at the corner of Balmain’s bustling Darling Street and Montague Street. It boasts a rare extended trading authorisation and enjoys strong patronage through its bar, bistro, TAB and bottleshop, but languishes in the 800s on the L&G list of gaming venues, in a suburb where the majority of pubs see similar or worse gaming exposure.

Darcy recently posted on social media that the pub had been sold, and the purchaser intends to “convert it from a pub to a medical centre”.

The purchaser, who wishes to remain anonymous, has confirmed to PubTIC that this is incorrect, and that the licence will remain, and the Town Hall will continue to operate as a pub for the foreseeable future.

In recognition of the value of the real estate, the site will become a mixed-use business, and the new owners will be looking at how best to realise potential at the sizeable block and upstairs of the two-level brick building.

The off-market sale was managed through CBRE Hotels’ Daniel Dragicevich and Sam Handy. Dragicevich sold the Town Hall to Nicks Wills’ BPG last year, and is currently managing the sale of the Group’s elegant Greenwood Hotel, in North Sydney.

“In today’s competitive investment climate, we are increasingly receiving enquiries from a variety of buyer profiles for hotel opportunities that typically occupy high-profile, prominent sites – such as the Town Hall Hotel,” explains Dragicevich. “It is a positive for the hotel market generally.”

Although seemingly no longer faced with the crisis perceived, Darcy has announced a “summit of publicans” to address the challenges pubs in Balmain and Rozelle face, in the hope of a ‘hotels strategy’ for the precinct.

“I will be doing everything in my power to keep the Towny as a pub but we must also look at the systemic problems facing all our hotels and find solutions that will keep Balmain and Rozelle as the greatest puburbs [sic] in Australia.”