In Property by Clyde Mooney

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Back from his hiatus, Peter Braithwaite has taken the plunge into Queensland with purchase of the Willow Hotel turned Red Lion outside Brisbane from the Thompson family.

Braithwaite sold the Commercial Hotel Boolaroo mid-2017 after almost a decade of operation, citing “time for something new” and plans for an extended vacation.

Simon Thompson and partners bought the Red Lion late 2014, executing a comprehensive makeover. Recognising the strength of the burgeoning south-east Queensland market, they listed the freehold going concern earlier this year.

The pub is just seven kilometres from the Brisbane CBD, on an 820sqm block on major highway Beaudesert Rd, offering a large public bar, bistro, and 28 gaming entitlements.

Having recharged, Braithwaite had begun looking for a suitable ‘step up’ from his previous pub, scouring NSW and southern Queensland before settling his gaze on the Red Lion.

“We had a sensational break, and recharged the batteries a bit, then started looking again,” he says. “You can’t stand still forever. It was nice not working, but the problem is you don’t have any money.

“It took me 17 months to find my next hotel. With the market so hot, we found it quite hard. Then Glenn Price rang and said ‘would you be interested in Brisbane?’ I drove up, had a look and thought this was a great opportunity, and decided it was the place for me.

“I made an offer, they accepted, I rolled up my sleeves and I’m back into it.”

Taking the keys a week ago for an undisclosed amount, he is settling in to five to six days at the pub before flying back to Newcastle, which he says is great for a break from the business and family time, but wife Emma and daughters Zoe and Sophie will likely relocate up there in the new year.

In the meantime, he has wasted no time making his mark, renaming the pub back to its original moniker, the Willow Hotel, which he thinks is a little “softer” and better-suited to the growing residential area.

More structurally, a new gaming room is underway, 20 new EGMs already ordered, and bringing a chef with him into the business there will be a new ‘cheap eats’ menu to further attract families, amongst other tweaks.

“It’s about getting structures and procedures back in place and going forward. I think it’s a great opportunity, to be honest with you, great area, very multi-cultural society here in Moorooka and it’s going really well.”

The sale was brokered through JLL Hotels’ Tom Gleeson and HTL Property’s Glenn Price, who note the buyer depth for Queensland assets, as illustrated by JLL’s sale of the Wickham for HPI in September, and HTL’s sale of the Rising Sun to Redcape in June.

“In a market where suburban gaming venues are increasingly finite, the [former] Red Lion is in a wonderful position for further success,” offers Gleeson.

“NSW publicans continue to view QLD as an opportune hunting ground to expand their portfolios,” furthers Price.

“With the compression of yields across both the Sydney and Coastal markets in NSW, Queensland is an attractive alternative.”