In Property by Clyde Mooney

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Universal Hotels has landed a trifecta in Taylor Square with acquisition of Pelathon’s Darlinghurst icon, the Oxford Hotel.

The pub on the corner of the eponymous Oxford Street and Bourke Street went through several name changes and minor geographical repositioning between being first licensed in the 1850s and being demolished to facilitate road widening in 1909.

It re-opened as the Oxford Hotel with a bold Federation look by famed pub architect, E Lindsay Thompson.

Vendor Pelathon Management has owned the pub for seven years, but divested the freehold two years ago in the wake of the lockout down-turn. The building saw a million-dollar makeover, but has continued to languish as the stalwart strip transitions in the wake of the legislative curfew.

Jaz Mooney’s Pelathon continues its focus on assets in Queensland, particularly the far north, and determined someone else would be better to apply the hands-on attention the Oxford needed for a suitable makeover.

Universal Hotels has built strong resources in running hospitality venues and made its intentions known with the $23m purchase of Riversdale’s Kinselas, on Bourke St just off Taylor Square, then backed it up with last month’s purchase of the Brighton Hotel, just a block down Oxford Street.

The Kospetas family behind Universal Group believe Oxford Street is ready to start thriving again, and cite plans “activating its presence” in the precinct with a focus on food and entertainment.

Piano lounge in the Oxford Hotel

While the Oxford has played to an ‘everyone welcome’ formula in recent years, in the wake of plummeting patronage, Universal intend to restore its reputation as an LBGTI icon.

“We’re definitely going toward that path,” says Harris Kospetas. “With the ‘Yes’ vote and everything I think there’s a bit of energy in that scene. Also, it’s the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras next year too. We’re looking forward to it for Oxford Street.”

Despite having three Darlinghurst pubs within conga line of each other, Kospetas says they are working through plans to pitch each to its best niche.

“They’re all different, and each venue’s going to have a different offering. That’s the only reason why we’ve gone for three. We wouldn’t necessarily go for so many so close, but the opportunity was there so we took it.

“The Oxford’s got the name, too. We’ll probably aim to make that the community pub of Oxford Street.

“Exciting times. Hopefully we can be part of the evolution of Oxford Street.”

Pelathon engaged CBRE Hotels’ Sam Handy and Daniel Dragicevich to market the operation, with 21 EGMs and up to 24 years remaining on the lease.

“The Oxford will complement Universal Hotels’ existing interests in the precinct, and is a great fit for them considering their particular skill sets across food, gaming and late-night entertainment,” suggests Handy.