DB Pubs has consolidated its portfolio in New England with sale of the Royal Hotel Armidale to growing local hoteliers Tom and Harley Payne.

Occupying a large 1,836sqm site on main drag Marsh Street, the two-storey Art Deco hotel holds a coveted late-trading 3am licence, providing public bar, sports bar and TAB, gaming room with 16 EGM entitlements, commercial kitchen and large bistro with seating for over 100 people, 18 accommodation rooms and a three-bedroom manager’s apartment, onsite parking, and a freestanding bottleshop.

Armidale residents the Payne family already held the title at the nearby St Kilda, and recently purchased the freehold of the Grand Hotel, which they now operate as a freehold going concern.  

The northern NSW town is found approximately halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, on the New England Highway, counting local population of around 24k.

Vendor on the sale was DB Pubs P/L, privately owned by the rich-lister Roche family, which acquired the Royal mid-2021, and Armidale’s Railway later the same year. The family cites a decision to divest the Royal in order to re-focus on core assets closer to its headquarters in the Hunter Valley.

Sources suggest the Paynes paid a sale price approaching $10 million for the freehold going concern.

This puts a popular local back in local hands, and elevates the family to the status of being the biggest operators in town.

Harley Payne is an old-school public bar kind of publican, and his son, Tom, is eagerly following in the family footsteps and has been heavily involved in the uplift they have worked at the Grand.

They say they looked at opportunities when the market was at its low, and felt they could offer back to the community what were once thriving pubs.

“We wanted to keep the hotels locally owned and work in with community needs,” Tom told PubTIC. “We work closely with various local clubs and sporting teams, which is a major focus for these venues.

“We are long-term residents of Armidale, and have a good understanding of the area and how the industry works. I feel this has been overlooked and it plays major part in how we are progressing in the future.”

The Paynes purchased both the Royal and the Grand through HTL Property’s Xavier Plunkett and Andrew Jolliffe, who offer that the latest was a “very deliberate strategic acquisition” on their part.

“The addition of the Royal Hotel consolidates the family’s stronghold as the largest pub property holders within the major regional city,” notes Plunkett.

The agency has been highly active in the region, reporting 25 hotel transactions worth more than $225 million in the past three years, and suggesting wider New England is consistently one of the more desirable regional markets for hoteliers.

“Vibrant sub-metro markets such as the New England area are high on the list of investors who have readily identified the diversified income enjoyed by the region,” furthers Jolliffe.

“And the prospect for population-led growth as migration to regional centres continues to gain momentum.”

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