In Property by Clyde Mooney

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Tightening his command on the seaside precinct, Arthur Laundy has snatched Bells Hotel ahead of its pending auction, long-timers the Miles family bidding farewell after more than four decades.

Built 1922, Bells Hotel is an institution of Woolloomooloo, standing proudly on the corner of Bourke St and Cowper Wharf Road, opposite both the renowned Finger Wharves and Laundy’s iconic Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel. It replaced the site’s original Punches ale house, built in the 1860s.

The Miles’ have owned and operated the pub since buying the leasehold in 1976 and eventually the freehold from Tooths in 1990, matriarch Lil famously manning the taps to the ripe age of 96.

Lil Miles

Having made the reluctant decision to sell, it was put to market last month through HTL Property’s Andrew Jolliffe and Dan Dragicevich, heading for a well-publicised auction on 15 November.

Tight market conditions and a noticeable shortage of freeholds had pundits tipping a sale price on auction day well into double-digits.

But demonstrating their affection for the multi-generational family asset, the Miles’ agreed to a sale ahead of time for a price believed to be close to $15 million.

“The family has loved the 45 years at Bells, and while it is the end of an era for us we are happy to sell to Arthur, a long-time local publican, who we are sure will only be an asset to further develop the potential of our much-loved pub,” said Erin Peterson, on behalf of the family.

Laundy group purchased the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel from the Medich family for $20 million in 2015, leased to ALH, but took control of operations earlier this year.

At the same time they bought the picturesque Woolwich Pier Hotel, now enjoying the fruits of a big-budget renovation.

Despite initially suggesting he wasn’t interested, Laundy and family were drawn to the opportunity at Bells, and the upsides of applied resources in the precinct.

The pub king was not alone, reportedly jumping ahead of other sharks in the water, some of whom had been eying it for some time.

“Interest in the prominently positioned asset was from a wide spectrum of well-known hospitality operators and commercial property specialists, with many reporting to have coveted it unofficially for years,” relayed Dragicevich.