Celebrity chef Sean Donovan has bought the Town Hall Hotel business in Fitzroy, with plans to improve its standing as a place “to get a beer”.

Operated for the last five years by Melbourne chef Harry Lilai and wife Michelle, the Hotel has built a solid reputation as a foodie destination – awarded a hat in last year’s in The Age Good Food Guide.

Donovan sold his two successful hotels – South Melbourne’s Wayside Inn and Footscray’s Station Hotel – late last year to new pub group, Dixon Hospitality.

The heritage-listed Town Hall features upstairs and downstairs function spaces and two fully equipped commercial kitchens, but Donovan says what he wants most is a public bar.

“I’m looking to take the place back to more of a fair dinkum pub,” he said.

“I think the pub needs to be a place where you can walk in from the street and get a beer, so I hope to take the Town Hall back closer to its roots.”

The chef-publican intends some minor cosmetic changes, which may require temporary closure, and an updated name may emerge, although options are restricted due to its status.

The hotel transacted through Colliers International’s Pat and Will Connolly, who suggest Donovan is well-positioned to capitalise on good foundations.

“Based in the heart of Fitzroy, on busy Johnston Street, the Town Hall Hotel has a strong reputation and offers its new owner a platform to build on a proud and well established brand.”

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