In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

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Iris has loosed the purse-strings again in the name of optimising its big-format Wentworth Hotel, striking a prominent and handsome pose on Parramatta Road in Homebush.

Sam Arnaout’s Iris Capital bought the two-storey brick heritage pub beside one of Sydney’s busiest roads in 2014 from Rod Salmon. It had been languishing in the 200s on the state gaming rankings, and four years later becoming increasingly out of step with the onslaught of development in the region.

Wentworth Point, Homebush and the wider area continue to see large-scale residential development. Iris considered the evolving demographic of families and office workers, and the thriving markets directly across the road, in designing a facility deserving of its history and presence.

“We felt the pub wasn’t capitalising on its market share,” offers Arnaout. “When we first bought the place four years ago I started planning what I saw as the vision for the venue.”

The project has now delivered a door-to-door renovation, including a 150-seat dining area and state-of-the-art kitchen, big beer garden, massive kids’ area, big gaming room with 30 EGMs, and two traditional TABS plus digital betting.

Under Iris the pub has risen to #25 on the Liquor & Gaming rankings, while the Markets Hotel opposite has retained its #2 position in the State for some time now.

“We spent close to $6 million, and a big part of that was designing and evolving the renovation around the really striking heritage building on the site. We’ve done a sympathetic renovation that reinterpreted the heritage in elements through the whole renovation.”

The pub sits on a big 5,600sqm block and holds a 24-hour licence, and behind its columned entranceway stands a red brick gabled structure that is reminiscent of a house of worship. Arnaout says “you can’t recreate” these old buildings.

“It’s an all ‘round well-appointed venue, well-positioned to take advantage of the next ten years. It ticks all the boxes. It’s built for speed, and we expect it to show good growth over the next year.

“We’ve created a true local landmark for the Homebush market, sitting proud opposite Paddy’s Market.”