Last week, Highclere Hospitality reopened the Australian Hotel in McGraths Hill after a major renovation to the venue.

Warren Livingstone’s group acquired the pub in Sydney’s north-western suburbs in September last year for $11.5m – the first time the hotel had been sold by the Maguire family in 150 years. Livingstone and his team set to work immediately to refresh every component of the hotel, spending $3.5m on the renovations.

Having not had a renovation in quite some time, Highclere Hospitality reworked every component of the venue, sparing no detail.

“Basically we’ve redone everything. It’s a significant renovation and refurbishment. We’ve redone the bar. It has seating for 800 people, two carparks, a drive-through bottleshop, gaming floor with 29 machines, big bistro, big kitchen. It has the opportunity to be a super-pub,” stated Livingstone.

Famed landscape designer Will Dangar designed the beer garden, while up-and-coming female designers Second Edition worked with Highclere Hospitality to reuse and recycle materials as much as possible throughout the hotel. Behind the 1980s tiles and bricks of the public bar, original tiles from the 1930s were found and reused to give the hotel’s bar space a chic, retro look.

“We were able to go to those original tiles and the front bar looks a bit like The Nelson or something that’s old and original. So that’s quite cool.”

The hotel sits on a 6000sqm site, giving Highclere Hospitality the opportunity to develop the hotel even further down the track.

“This is Stage 1, and then we’ll decide what to do after that.

The 6000sqm block allowed for a large beer garden to be constructed, including seating, a large TV screen, kids playground and landscaping.

A community hub

Where the previous iteration of the Australian Hotel was a rock and roll pub that was polarising for a lot of the local community, for Livingstone the aim of the renovation is to make the pub a hub for the entire local community by presenting a varied offer. It also fills a gap in the market for the local community, which is growing.

“There’s a few clubs in the area but there’s no pubs. You have to drive 15 minutes to get to a pub. What we’re trying to do – and what I think we do well – is provide a holistic option for people. So good F&B, we’ve spent a lot of money in the beer garden, we’ve got massive TVs for sport etc.,” explained Livingstone.

The group has been working to get the word out to locals about the refreshed Australian Hotel, with Facebook proving to be the most effective social media channel, much to Livingstone’s surprise.

“In the city, and especially with Slims Rooftop [at Hyde Park House], it’s all Instagram. Whereas out west at The Australian, it’s all Facebook still. Which I found very interesting because it’s a very different mindset or position people are at. So it’s very different depending on the areas you’re in, in Sydney, what works and what doesn’t.”

The team has regardless hit on a winning formula, as “throngs of happy locals” have visited the pub since it opened last week.

The Australian Hotel is the latest addition to the Highclere Hospitality portfolio, joining Charing Cross Hotel in Sydney’s eastern suburbs; Hyde Park House in the CBD; Captain Cook Hotel in south Sydney; Rose and Crown Hotel in Parramatta; and The Globe Hotel, Deniliquin, in the NSW’s Riverina region.

Locals enjoying the new public bar, which incorporates original tiles from the 1930s.

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Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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