In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

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Michael Thiele and Craig Ellison are back, with the grand unveiling of their rebuilt Hardiman’s Hotel in Kensington, turning a new page for the duo.

Thiele and Ellison were the drive behind the former Open Door Pub Co, which grew to 17 operations before selling its complete portfolio to Dixon Hospitality, now Aus Venue Co, back in 2015.

Having taken a well-earned break, the pair negotiated the purchase on the freehold of the Hardiman’s Hotel mid-2017 through CBRE, from live-in owner operators Rick Richards and Jane Holmes. They had eyed its potential for several years, believing the rapidly developing area was “crying out” for a modern hospitality operation.

Built in the 1870s by the Hardiman family as the Clarence Hotel and designed to resemble a boat, it took on its current moniker under owner-operator Timothy Hardiman in the 1940s.

Thiele and Ellison have executed an extensive renovation taking 13 months, and jumping the usual hurdles around planning and licences, reopened for the first of September in anticipation of the unfolding Spring Carnival. The pub is just one kilometre from the revered Flemington Racecourse, in a pocket of north-west Melbourne.

“We’ve seen a very good response,” reports Thiele. “It’s a nice neighbourhood, Kensington, bit of a hidden gem in Melbourne. Very underserviced, that whole side.”

The revised Hardiman’s will make good use of its proximity, playing host to lead-up events and a champagne breakfast on Melbourne Cup day, 6 November, but Thiele reports the rapidly growing patronage is not only about the racing.

“We’ve gotta get through footy finals first, then start promoting the place for the Cup getting on for Grand Final week.”

Hardiman’s Hotel trades until 11pm most nights, midnight Thursday, and 1am Friday and Saturday.