Bundaberg hospitality stalwart Stephen Paterson has handed over his town favourite, the Railway Hotel, with the Spotted Dog Café, Bar and Grill, to first-timer Adrian Evans and partners including Arthur Laundy.

Mid-2020, the iconic Spotted Dog Tavern and adjacent backpackers hostel were lost to a massive fire.

The Dog was Paterson’s sixth hotel, and speaking after the blaze he described as “a little cracker” and said he was in shock over its loss.  

Unafraid to get back on the horse, he went on to buy the proximate Railway Hotel operation, three minutes’ drive from Bundaberg’s town centre, adjacent to the Burnett River, and about six months later he secured the freehold.

Image: Queensland Police

Established in 1977, the Railway offers sports bar, TAB and Keno facilities, gaming room with eight machines and approval to operate up to 15, restaurant and bar, function room, beer garden and accommodation. It also incorporates a café and has a drive-through bottleshop, plus another detached bottleshop.

And since Paterson took the wheel it has come to feature a commemorative nod to the belated, beloved Spotted Dog.

The hotel occupies a commanding 4,473sqm corner lot fronting Perry Street, while adjoining residential properties as part of the sale each hold 1,012sqm on Perry Street.

An off-market transaction has purchase by a syndicate, led by Evans, who began working at Laundy Hotel Group (LHG) at the Harlequin Inn, back in 2004. Hoping to go out on his own, he has been looking for opportunities for the last couple of years and earlier this year began movements on the Railway.

Evans leads five equity partners, including Laundy and some first-time investors.

At Evans’ request the Laundy Group will provide support managing office administration, through a system he already knows. The new owner-operator will also benefit from the group expertise he brings, and the buying power of the collective.

LHG has invested in and reports success through joint ventures with managing equity partners, and group operations manager Nick Tindall, himself a partner with LHG, says the Railway is an extension of this formula.

“We are always happy to assess mutually beneficial partnerships,” he says.

Located approximately 385 kilometres north of Brisbane, Bundaberg is one of Australia’s fastest-growing tourism destinations, with an annual economy exceeding $5 billion. Most famous for its signature Rum Distillery, it is home to many attractions, not the least of which is the nearby world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

The city also reports industries in growth, and a pipeline of projects for delivery in the coming decade, including a new $1.2 billion hospital, due 2027, the expansion of the Port of Bundaberg and completion of the $70 million mixed-use marina village.

Following the interest rate hikes of the past year, the Sunshine State sale reflects that balanced hotel opportunities on sizeable land holdings remain attractive to operators and investors. In the case of the Railway, its established customer loyalty and reputation added to the intangible underpinning of goodwill.

“The new owner has made a strategic move with the purchase of the Railway Hotel, with the asset only recently completing extensive refurbishments of the beer garden, function room and bar/bistro area,” says Savills Hotels’ Leon Alaban, who managed the transaction.

“These renovations have added significant value to the property and have placed the new owner in a good position to continue capitalising on the asset.”

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